When The 405
were invited to an exclusive playback of the new Crystal Castles
album, we replied âyes pleaseâ whilst performing a spasmodic happy dance, with only our email account as witness to this act. But would the new Crystal Castles
album (titled, er, Crystal Castles
) be an album to happily spasmodically dance to?
The eponymous album was recorded and written seemingly influenced by a Lonely Planet
guide; producer and CC
member Ethan Kath
utilising a church in Iceland, a self-built cabin in Ontario, and a garage behind an abandoned convenience store in Detroit according to the Press Release.
Due to be released on June 7th
, the explosive Canadian duoâs first material for 2 years shows a lot of promise and beholds a feat of production, sensory overloads and gothic synths. The following provides a track-by-track breakdown of our first impressions â and among the first impressions in UK.
1) Fainting Spells
A minimal build-up with thumping kick-drum slowly builds with a layer of slightly nightmarish sampled sounds, including heavily distorted Alice Glass
vocals (almost unrecognizable as vocals in fact so sampled/produced they are). Reminiscent of !!!
's reverb style of sound and layers, a little âeuphoria breakâ gives the track time to breath before a sudden end. The sound of a forest at night having a heart attack, animals pulsating - an excellent, brooding mess. A sign of things to come?
More structured than the opener, Celestica
features a reverb heavy Alice Glass
voice, but surprisingly melodic â and dare we say soothing? Almost shoegazey. Yes, Alice Glass
, soothing. Chorus kicks in satisfyingly each time, but again slightly darker in tone than the CC
weâre used to. To be played at 5am in the morning as your world crumbles around you and the shadows mock you.
3) Doe Deer
Ah here we are, this is a more classic CC
aesthetic, 1 minute 37 seconds of an incessant noise attack at a ridiculously fast 160bpm (Or thereabouts). A catchy, constant lick is present throughout that threatens to get annoying, but never does due to the short- sharp adrenaline injected nature of the track. Think DFA
at their best. The first screeching of Miss Glass we hear, and welcomed it is. Abrasive.
Doe Deer is also to be released on an extremely limited 500-copy run to coincide with Record Store day on April 17th. Certainly worth checking out, if youâre lucky.
The more hardcore fan base of CC
will have heard Baptism
at their lives shows in the past, but this sees the first studio recording. After some traditional tuneful bleeps in the introduction (which continue for much of the track) it explodes 40 seconds in as the vocals wail into an almost uncomfortable, lyrically inaudible high-pitched sequel. Having said that, the following could be made out when repeated for the 3rd time:
âthis is your baptism
and you cant forgive themâ
Some sampled loops layer towards the end, and again we have a track with the chance to breath, as minimal soundscapes thrust in.
5) Year Of Silence
Starts off from the first beat with what can only be described as a âfatâ bass heavy intro, which actually never ceases throughout in four-to-the-floor fashion. But 15 seconds inâ¦ some familiar vocalsâ¦ but, who IS that? Could it beâ¦ yes. Itâs definitely Jonsi
from Sigur Ros
. A lyric from InnÃ MÃ©r Syngur Vitleysingur
is on a loop through the whole track; in fact, two separate Jonsi
vocals are sampled and overlap at various points. Most consistent track so far.
The first minute is a relatively minimal affair, heavy on the mid/high frequency treble vibe, the frequency designed to make clubbers feel disconcerting and disorientated (not that thatâs difficult, ho um). The treble-infused repetition of the main melody is an ever-present, and this combination with downbeat, reverb-heavy indecipherable vocals make the whole thing sound like a foreboding nightmare (that word again). The caustic end works terrifically well in this respect, which cuts-off abruptly.
A thick, though soft ambient âwall-of-noiseâ crops up at the start and regularly throughout that wouldnât be out of place in Maps
latest album. Though when this is cut throughout the verses, weâre treated with some lovely angelic, and of course distorted vocals that are allowed to shine through the quietness. Rises, falls towards the end, classic dance build up, to a crescendoâ¦ thenâ¦ fades.
8) Violent Dreams
Here we have a subtly trippy affair, with sounds that go then cut then go, and features many layers of various electronic noises â though to be fair this is common through much of the album, a lot of production is evident. We even get a church organ that slowly evolves, and the track certainly lives up to itâs name. Peaceful, yet disconcerting again.
A constant through the album as a whole is the voice used an an electronic tool, just another instrument/sample to play with and mangle â this is not a criticism. In fact, it is used often expertly, and Vietnam
probably sums this up in a microcosm. The most 80âs sounding track, the melodies/bleeps wait until 2/3 minutes in to surface, a track that builds and deconstructs throughout.
After a heavy drum intro dripping with attitude, a what can only be described as a âzap!â on every fourth note takes hold, leaving a slightly aggressive, angry mood. The end turns into a âfight-electronicaâ scenario.
11) Pap Smear
Something that has not been heavily apparent on the album has been the 8-bit/chiptune style that the first album was synonymous with, preferring to use a broader spectrum of production styles. Pap Smear
however includes these classic bit-bleep noises, and post choruses choppy noise chaos ensues. A satisfying car-revving bass is a nice little curveball at one point.
12) Not In Love
You know youâre getting old when an intro consisting purely of electronics sounds nostalgic, and Not In Love
encapsulates this. Glassâs robot voice leads to a very optimistic sounding chorus, in fact looking at our rambling notes itâs described as âquite lovelyâ, and underlined. Twice. A light, dare we say gentle feel, that ends well (no abrupt cut-outs here which CC
love on this album), Not In Love
may well be something special.
Another track that has been aired frequently live (they often close on it) the malteeser-light electronic bleeps that sound like pixellated rain evolve over the course of the track. A proper crowd pleaser that builds, featuring next to no vocals, itâs just there to be enjoyed and danced to. Layered sound, wall of noise, house of fun. Quite brilliant.
14) I Am Made Of Chalk
A supremely messy first 20 seconds before a breakdown, only for some âgurgling noisesâ to appear sans beats. Another builder, the drowning vocals are barely even recognised as vocals. Need more time to judge this one, potentially something there.
So there you have it. Bear in mind this was only our first listen, so full judgment cannot be called â though it is a promising state of affairs for the self-titled album. Less reliant on 8-bit âchiptuneâ beeps, though more reliant of production values conversely. We often hear of artists becoming âover-producedâ these days, oft leveled as a criticism, but CC
here are smart and subtle enough not to fall into this territory of the banal and bland. A shift in direction in content and style is present, proving to hold a darker edge possessing tracks that could soundtrack your nightmarish comedowns.
Potential standout tracks:
Intimate, Not In Love, Doe Deer and Celestica.