Sabotage Times, We can't Concentrate so Why Should You?Sabotage Times, We can't Concentrate so Why Should You?


Crystal Castles: Pissing Blood Through A Fuzzbox

by Adam Steiner
10 November 2012

The Canadian electro-noiseniks are just about to release their third album, here's a guide to what's gone before.

After nearly eight years of mixing bytes & blood, Crystal Castles have developed their style of digitised shock and awe electronica, shaking hearts and minds to their core, to a fine art.

They return next week with III,  which may be their best album yet; but how did Crystal Castles become the noise monster they are today? And how have they changed along the way?

Their first album was a fantastic mix of glitter and crunch. Like all the best electronica, they have always veered between ambient soundscapes and head-smashing bass lines without sounding like puritans or conforming to previous styles or trends. They sound as resolutely individualistic as their Canadian heritage might suggest.

I love the fun bop of ‘Alice Practice’ and the maddening thump of ‘Love And Caring.’ These tracks are lightened by the contrast of ‘Magic Spells.’

Tracks from all of their albums make reference to war or conflict and there is a pervading sense of dread on this latest record. Songs like ‘Birds’ and the madcap buzz of ‘Doe Deer’ from their second album willingly invite grunge comparisons and beat the old styles at their own game. Deer in particular is  one of the most insane one and half minute sonic assaults I’ve ever heard since the yawns and distortion of Aphex Twins’ ‘Windowlicker.’

More

Full Metal Racket: Public Enemy Live

Placebo’s New EP B3:  A Misfiring Rehash Of Older Albums

A defining trait of the duo is the vocal manipulation of Alice Glass’ softcroonig into a tsunami of angst  and even through the primal scream static you can sense buried frustrations, suppressed anger but most of all an infectious ecstasy working their way to the surface that gives bite to her sentiment and allows audeinces to go nuts. Like all the best bands, and I mean bands, they inspire more than devotion and willing self-sacrifice.

For this album the decadent duo have gone back to basics, with caveman electronics and production equipment in an effort to give a new sound to their unique acerbic, yet danceable tunes; like pop for NIN fans. Limits on tech demand new ways to create effects, including vicious panning on several tracks which makes the tracks lurch from speaker to speaker in a way you don’t hear often since records from the 60s.

There remain plenty of broken ear drum moments where a nifty tune is pushed to distortion so that it becomes indivisible from scratched vibrations like sounds of war – forget the  wall of sound, this is a wall of white noise punctuated by savage screams a brief moments of gentle release. Check out last track from first album, ‘Tell Me What To Swallow,’ and you could be listening to a number of tranquil indie closers, layered vocals soothe over softly strummed guitar, showing they can handle minimalism at both ends of the spectrum, from blips and beeps to acoustic reverence. III manages a similar feat of simplicity ove brutality, and despite the menacing title of ‘Child, I Will Hurt You,’ the twinkled arpeggios give more of an aftermath, leaving you guessing whether the entire record is intended as a stand-off against a terrible future, or a twilight lament for more innocent times.

The sexual frisson of Alice’s yelping remains present amongst the throbbing gristle of gnarled bass beats and glacial sheets of synth but comes through cleaner on III, whilst still pissing blood through a snarling fuzzbox and hi-gain acceleration.

And yet, beneath the austere veneer there has always been a touch of Euro-disco to their sound, a gentle lick of irony.

People forget that ‘Crimewave’ is a cover of fellow Noiseniks, Health, who practise equally sonic sadism but in a more standard four-piece band unit. Listen to the live version for the amount of work that goes into a yell and a beat as bystanders stop and wonder “what the fuck is that sound”;  a shock-stealing feat that indie dishtowels like Razorlight could never hope to achieve with their Shoreditch unviverse meanderings.

beneath the austere veneer there has always been a touch of Euro-disco to their sound, a gentle lick of irony.

There is more menace here, a building sense of dread in keeping with Glass’s foreboding comments about the global atmosphere in which III was recorded.

So which is the best?

I really want to recommend III as the ultimate CC album, but for me it had to be II, if only because it took their sound to a new level and challenged every critic who wrote them off as wafer-thin Alec Empire wannabes. But saying that, the first album is a great, almost naive introduction into what makes them great still. Add to this the advances of II and the new/old sound created by III, it is worthwhile giving every one a fair listen and choosing your favorite incarnation.

Click here for more stories on Music

Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Twitter

Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Facebook

If you like it, Pass it on

image descriptionCOMMENTS

No comments yet, be the first!

Leave a comment

Music image description SABOTAGE

1