Crystal Castles - Amnesty (I) - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Crystal Castles - Amnesty (I)

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:7 Release Date:2016-08-19

Second chances. We all want them, but we don't necessarily deserve them. Such is the dilemma for Crystal Castles fans. With the departure of vocalist Alice Glass in 2014 with her eyes on a solo career, the band was briefly presumed to be finished. But remaining member Ethan Kath found a replacement, the mysterious Edith Frances, and plowed ahead without Glass. Crystal Castles had occupied a distinct space in the world of indie electronics, with the capacity for poppy sweetness, but also the ability to slide into more disturbing and off-kilter terrain, such that they're sometimes grouped in with the witch house genre. Amnesty (I) finds Kath continuing to elude simple classification.

The lead track, 'Femen', is essentially an instrumental, though it does have a bit of ephemeral voices clouding it up, making it sound like a church choir in reverse. The true beginning of the action comes in 'Fleece', with huge grating keys alternating with a milder, but extremely insistent synth melody, and all topped by freakily distorted vocals defined by Frances' banshee-like yowling.

'Char' is a lot more straightforward and oozes some of the sweetness that delineates the softer side of the band's music. A snapping beat and melody in the verses take turns with a bigger, darker synth and more creepily distorted singing in the chorus. More pounding, insistent keyboard work comes in for 'Enth', and Frances gets her screech on again, sounding a bit like Atari Teenage Riot. The band does a fair job of channelling Hooverphonic too on 'Sadist' and 'Chloroform', with their spacey, drifting vocals and sparse electronics. These tracks also highlight an important change with Frances fronting the group. While she lacks the easy attitude Glass showed in songs like 'Courtship Dating', she's a superior pure singer.

The album also includes the previously released single 'Frail', a well named song with a fragile, numinous feeling. The delicate and brittle electronics shimmer on the edge of disintegration before things go a bit house. That style receives another nod in the closer, 'Their Kindness is Charade', which achieves a similar sense of striving hugely for the ineffable.

So, despite the fact that the original Crystal Castles is no more, this reformulation proves the band deserves a second chance. It's clear Kath is the musical mastermind, and in Frances, he's found a worthy successor to Glass. It's clearly a different band, but it's not inferior, although I will be keeping an eye out for Glass' solo work.

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