Crystal Castles Solid, but Lack Spark

Courtesy of Casablanca/Universal Republic

The Canadian indie electronic duo Crystal Castles has graced us with a new release, their third self-titled album, otherwise known as “(III).” Crystal Castles is comprised of vocalist Alice Glass and producer and instrumentalist Ethan Kath. The duo first gained notoriety in the indie and electronic dance music community in 2008 with their self-titled debut and, along with their second (also self-titled) album, garnered critical acclaim and popularity for Glass’s rather radical and disturbing lyrics and vocal delivery, as well as Kath’s eclectic production that spans quite a range of genres, from shoegaze to electronic to synthpunk.

The experimental nature of their first two albums were their strong point; listening to their records was such a jarring listen at first, because a number of the tracks might seem like just instruments, chip-tune noises and repetitive synthesizer chords with Glass shrieking over all of those, but there is a certain method to their madness which you can begin to hear upon multiple listens. On their second album, they started to move to a different sound that is more vast and epic. This isn’t necessarily a bad move on their part, because tracks like “Celestica,” “Baptism” and “Not in Love” have Glass singing almost angelically over gargantuan booms and sighs of synthesizers.

On their third LP, however, they almost exclusively hug to this style quite tightly, and I’m not totally sure if I’m in love with it. Tracks like “Kerosene” and “Sad Eyes” are definitely some of the most beautiful sounding EDM cuts I’ve heard all year, but how long can Crystal Castles stick to this kind of sound without being repetitive? Most of the experimental nature and personality that I’ve grown to love about Crystal Castles simply isn’t here.

On this album, a major change is in Glass’s vocal style. Most tracks have her cooing lyrics that (if you even care to look them up and read them) are just plain disturbing and radical, but with loads of reverb added to it, to the point of obscuring it with the music. On tracks like “Child I Will Hurt You” and “Affection,” this effect works and crashes waves of sonic ecstasy when listening. On other tracks like “Plague” and “Wrath of God,” where Alice is shrieking her lyrics, it just sounds foreign, anonymous and simply plain forgettable.

The instrumentals are pretty solid, and like I said before, Crystal Castles really likes to keep the epic sounds in their music to create a sense of euphoria. Before this release, Kath stated that they approached the LP differently by not using computers in the studio and also recording the tracks in one take, which makes this album sound even more impressive and massive. But Crystal Castles fans who are looking for more experimental and crossover value in the instrumentals are going to be sorely disappointed due to the same reason, because there is a dearth of additional sound effects and interesting choices that Kath had made on the first LP and (admittedly less so) on the second.

Overall, Crystal Castles has made a solid (and accessible) record, but you have to wonder where they can go from here if they don’t maintain the experimental nature fans have grown to love about them.

Final Rating: 3/5