Sunday, 11 November 2012

Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles III

Crystal Castles successfully integrate electronic music with elicit vocals. Their debut album Crystal Castles was heavily marketed and advertised in 2008 through the likes of NME and Channel 4's Skins. It was almost as if the new wave of dance music (nu-rave to some) had taken a leap of faith. Klaxons and Late of The Pier established themselves in the British market, with the term dance-punk applied to one and nu-rave to the other. The chiptune music of CC's debut was a mind-blowing experience. It was neither amazing nor awful, their debut album just was. Crystal Castles II went down a different route; the route in their latest effort has gone down. Ethan Kath's production utilised reverberation a little bit too much for my liking, considering their earlier mingle with HEALTH and Death From Above 1979 on their debut. The Canadian duo are no strangers to experimentation, which brings us to Crystal Castles III.

They're re-nowned for not being able to release a song with clear vocals. Crediting the lyricism is tricky because we're looking for music quality and the aspects of it that stand out. We can't hear Alice Glass clearly, so the lyrics are pointless for record. Listeners shouldn’t have to go to a lyrics website to understand a track, they should be hearing it in the music and it’s a re-occurring problem with CC. As part of the listening experience, turning off the lights and imagining a dystopian world just doesn’t work. "Plague" opens with rave sounds and a heavily reverberated vocal by Glass that could pretty much be in hopelandic. The beat is hard hitting and there's a noticeable bass synthesizer that controls the tracks chorus. The chiptune period of CC is clearly over, welcome to 80s CC. "Kerosene" works the production techniques. Glass' cut up vocals are an important feature in CC's output. Instead of the distorted and forward Glass vocals, we have cut up and pitch shifted vocals and heavy use of reverberation. "Affection" is a short rave track, like many of the tracks here. It bears a striking resemblance to Justin Timberlake's "My Love". Timberlake was once accused of plagiarism when he blatantly took CC's "Courtship Dating" for his collaboration with 50 Cent on "Ayo Technology”. “Pale Flesh" delves deeper into the dark atmosphere of Crystal Castles III with heavy beats and an 8 bit tune.

Even though the music is different to CC's beginnings, it still has a reasonable amount of quality. Listening to this album isn't exactly life changing, but to some it very well maybe the album of the year. The dark atmospheres remind the listener of Britain’s famous trance outfit Underworld, ("Sad Eyes"). Likewise, the albums killer moment comes eight minutes in with pre-release single "Wrath of God". It's a stark contrast to the duo's early years with the upbeat "Untrust Us" and "Crimewave".

"Insulin" comes across a little loud in comparison to the albums light trance style. Glass' vocals are unbearable, as is the course instrumentation. "Transgender" has a nice little beat, but when you compare it to other tracks on the album, it just doesn’t stand out. Not many of these tracks jump out at me, which is why the album is pretty much ineffective. "Violent Youth", "Mercenary" and "Child I Will Hurt You" are three tracks on the back half of the album that are of little meaning and quality. The latter track has some lovely synthesizer riffs, but Glass' vocal is faint. So the time the listeners crave for an understandable CC track... They get the same old alien vocal. 

Glass' vocal is cut up and pitch-shifted to fit Kath's production on the track "Telepath". It seems Kath literally makes hundreds of instrumentals which he then gives to Glass to do her thing. There are moments of brilliance, but the moments of boredom outweigh the little exciting moments. When CC came onto the scene in 2008, it was exciting. Their follow up album in 2010 featured Robert Smith and a Sigur Ros vocal sample, it was indeed exciting. Two years have passed again and this album features very little. I wouldn’t call this album minimal; however it could be classed as a darker, atmospheric break from their 8bit origins. It's been four years since CC's debut album was released. Rave music wasn't at the heart of their output, but you can see why they've gone down this route. I have a few problems with this album. It lacks in variety, the beats are overused and dated, and the type of music they're releasing will age drastically. Three words: out, of, fashion.


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