Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles

by Jane Bradley Rating: Release Date:

At the time of its 2008 release, Crystal Castles' eponymous debut was reviled and adored in equal measures by music snobs across the land. Taking their name from cartoon heroine She-Ra's impenetrable sky fortress, the electro-experimental Toronto duo overlaid minimalist but sophisticated sonic soundscapes with layers of bleeping sound effects from kitsch old-skool arcade games, to the ecstasy of pillheads, Spectrum game geeks and anyone else with a soft spot for squelching, throbbing synths.

All this is finished off with Alice Glass' distinctive, distorted vocals, which are evocative in no small measure of the melancholy, menace and woozy, breathless howlings of Atari Teenage Riot's Hanin Elias. Glowing comparisons with electo darlings such as The Knife, Fischerspooner, M.I.A. and Miss Kittin justifiably followed the album's release, although since then their credibility has been somewhat tarnished by a series of copyright disputes. These ongoing quarrels claim that Crystal Castles' meteoric rise to notoriety had been wangled by sampling and appropriating material by other artists in the chip-tune community without crediting its original creators.

But even if Ethan Kath has been a mischievous scamp in his cut-ups, the end result is still intoxicating, and certain to make even the most sceptical listener want a dancefloor wiggle or two. Somehow, Crystal Castles manage to sound innocent and sinister all at once, like Bis the morning after a heavy night, when the amphetamines have worn off and the comedown has kicked in. The album's sincerity and jaunty bravado makes it infectious, with tracks so richly textured that they'll withstand several hundred repetitions without boredom or cynicism seeping in.

Best tracks: 'Alice Practice', 'Untrust Us', 'Tell Me What to Swallow'

Jane Bradley

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