Sunday, 18 November 2012

Crystal Castles - iii

Crystal Castles have had a relatively painless career to date. Since the wave of popularity swept in whilst all the kids watched Skins on E4, Ethan Kath and Alice Glass have been riding the top like a schizophrenic Poseidon. Their 2008 debut album sits pretty comfortably with a Metacritic rating of 73 whilst their second effort two years on had an equally comfortable surf into shore; but as the Canadian duo enter their third record, will more of the same suffice?
Well if the first track we heard from the imaginatively titled iii, Plague was anything to go by; possibly. Whilst the howling Alice Glass that we’ve grown to love over the years is present, Kath’s more reserved pulse signals some distance from the more reckless days of Castles. What it builds into is a frenzy of beautifully produced synthesia that proves to be a standout from their entire catalogue to date. The confidence in reservation doesn’t hold up either as you power through the record. Kerosene sees the video-game samples that made the likes of Crimewave so enticing take a backseat role as Glass presents a more delicate version of herself. “I’ll protect you from all the things I’ve seen” she sings, recognisably.

The attention to aggressive soundscapes that found its way through the first two records has been all but replaced by attention to slow crescendos and a refinement of a sound that could fill more grandiose scenes than perhaps they’ve been used to before. If Crystal Castles had written Pale Flesh, Transgender or even Telepath three years ago, they would have been a (more than welcome) assault to the senses. You’d have a hugely increased pulse from the raw energy Glass demanded from you whilst Kath would stand behind, sulkily forcing wave after wave of computerised sound into your nervous system. Now however, they sit, delicately placed in the Crystal Castles roster, comfortable in their maturity. That’s not to say that they’re not enjoyable, nor is it true that there’s not still some of these tracks left. Sad Eyes, whilst the smoke is Glass’ echoed voice, the smoke at the bottom of it is a throbbing beat as full of impending doom as Baptism. Insulin too has a bass sound that will make your ears tremor.

In their third record then; Crystal Castles haven’t taken their ripped clothing and sent it out for another lap, nor have they burnt it in favour of new clothes all together. No, in iii, the Toronto duo have simply taken those clothes, cleaned them up and added a jacket. At their core, they’re still the band that played to Tony and the Skins gang, only now they’ve grown up and that’s fine with me.


Braden Fletcher

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