Crystal Castles returned earlier this month with the release of the third studio album, III, ingeniously following up 2011’s II. Merging electro synth pop and punk with dreamy textures, big noise beats and a penchant for experimental, CCs are back to the highs of their 2008 debut.
Alice Glass’ vocals are amazing throughout, wrapped up in synth manipulation and varying layers of reverb and echo. The tracks bring together a great mix of sounds with a good dose of fuzz to deliver a new contender for Crystal Castles’ best album to date.
Opening track Plague sets the bar high right from the start with a synth progressions and Glass’ shimmering vocals. Kerosene isn’t far behind it with the addition of asymetrical soundscapes and a deep bass foundation.
Wrath of God slows it down a little, coated in church organ synthesiser and laced with a feeling of poignancy despite the often undecipherable lyrics. It’s got moments of sleepy beauty that are pieced with jagged shots and blips. Affection keeps things slow, but with more of a mellow feel.
Things get a bit creepy on Pale Flesh, which could easily be the intro music to a zombie invasion. Sad Eyes is equally disturbed with a haunting quality that makes III all the more interesting. It’s taken over the limits on Insulin, which is out on a messed up limb of noise.
The unpredictable Crystal Castles change direction again with the dancier Trangender, that quickly goes off on experimental tangents and Mike Oldfield chimes to link back to the other-worldliness of the last few tracks. It sets up the pace and random vocals that makes up Violent Youth, giving it an addictive quality.
Telephath is a bit one dimensional to start with compared to the rest of the album, but it’s still got Ethan Kath’s trademark lo-fi looping that gets more entrancing as the track goes on. The brooding feel of III is all encompassing on Mercenary, which is like an ode to death, which would have stacked up well on the Dredd Soundtrack.
Closing track, Child I Will Hurt You, is fittingly etherial finishing it all off with swirling chimes and choral vocals. The underlying fuzzing bass synth notes prop it up with a chunk of power that holds it together brilliantly.
There may not be as many infinitely recognisable songs on III as there were on Crystal Castles, but as a whole, it just edges it. Every track is a microcosm of electro perfection in its own right and that’s not easy to accomplish with so much experimentation in and among the mix.
Crystal Castles III review: 4/5
Crystal Castles followed up on III with Amnesty (I) after the departure of Alice Glass from the band.