Crystal Castles set the bar pretty high for their third release. After all, NME named their eponymous debut the 39th greatest album of the last decade, and their sophomore effort received widespread critical acclaim. Luckily, Alice Glass and Ethan Kath show no signs of slacking off on (III). This time around, they’ve abandoned some of the thrashing punk of their self-titled 2008 release while retaining the abrasive energy of a noise band. The result? A little less Slayer, a little more Ladytron. These tracks are heavily influenced by club music, but that doesn’t mean they’re cheerful. Imagine a goth rave or an Auto-Tuned horror movie soundtrack. Stuttering beats, roaring synths, cartoonish crescendos, echoing vocals: this is the darker side of techno.
(III) is somewhat similar to its predecessor, 2010’s Crystal Castles (II), and continues that album’s work of refining the messy punk of their first record. But the cleaner the sound gets, the more Glass’ airy, childish voice emerges—she sounds like a nightmarish Mariah Carey wailing in the distance. The effect is striking, but will come as no surprise to fans. It’s in the music, not the vocals, where the wider scope of this album is apparent. The songs range from fist-pumping anthem “Wrath of God” to dreamy slow jam “Child I Will Hurt You” to T-Pain--esque club banger “Affection.” The band’s tone of icy detachment is the thread that connects all of these varied styles. Even at their most triumphant moments, Crystal Castles remains chilly.
Crystal Castles | Crystal Castles (III), $10, amazon.com
By Sarah C. Jones
This review appears in the Dec/Jan 2013 issue of BUST Magazine with cover girl Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Subscribe now.
The opinions expressed on the BUST blog are those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily reflect the position of BUST Magazine or its staff.