If the first Crystal Castles record epitomized anxiety, then the second record was an insight into paranoia. The third Crystal Castles record is definitely about stress and loneliness as a disturbing air of unsettlement lingers from track to track.
Crystal Castles, as a band, are a group associated with frantic and glitchy electronic dance music which isn’t always a pleasant listen, but has, at least up until now, been undeniably great.
For me, Crystal Castles III wasn’t as much a drop in form as it was a band maintaining their ability to release good, even great, records that just don’t quite hit perfection like they could.
Lead single “Plague” opens the record where Crystal Castles left off, in utter despair and fear of the future, as music’s indie darling screams “I have the plague” in a desperate and fearful tone. From there we head straight into “Kerosene” which resembles early works such as “Crimewave” and “Untrust Us” which were still disquieting, but not objectionably so.
“Pale Flesh” features arpeggiating synth lines which seem almost eight-bit as they linger for the large part of the track. In typical Alice Glass style, lyrics are screamed or shouted with her voice distorted into an echoic whisper in parts and to a ghostly screech in others.
Another stand out track comes in the form of “Sad Eyes” which couples frenetic vocal tones with an eighties style synth line, though it’s executed in a manner which makes it feel as though it’s of the utmost urgency. I feel as though the song was dragged out a little, in a similar manner to tracks like the unashamedly boppy “Violent Youth”, once again coupled with ghostly Alice Glass vocals. Album closer “Child I Will Hurt You” doesn’t, tonally, resemble the darkness of its title at all, rather it takes all the unsettling emotion we were struggling with for every other track on the records, and flips it on its head with an elegant, sensitive track that wouldn’t be out of place on a Beach House record. That being said, it still suffers from Crystal Castles tendency to drag their tracks on and on when in reality they should be executed in a manner more similar to punk songs.
Crystal Castles are at their best when the tracks are short; fast bursts of emotion in the form of a synth and scream romp. They don’t feel as though they really captured the electronic rawness that people love about their previous records.
That being said, Crystal Castles III is a much more thoughtful record than any of their previous collections. The first record spanned a massive sixteen tracks and the second wasn’t much less either. From track to track we were treated to different styles of alternative electronica and glitch-hop neither record proving to be truly cohesive.
On the third collection of tracks, however, we’re given a much clearer notion of what the band are trying to get across. Glass’ lyrics are clearly stressed for the large part of this record, even at their lightest it’s clear that Glass has joined her fellow doom-sayers of contemporary life, Death Grips and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, releasing records in 2012.
It’s clear that the band isn’t all that worried about the future, however. At least not in a ‘end of the world in December’ kind of way anyway. They’ve booked in to see us at the Big Day Out in 2013 and I think this new array of tracks will traverse to the live setting effectively.
Is Crystal Castles III as good as the first two records? I didn’t love it like I loved the others, straight away, but it’s by no means a record to discount.