Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Crystal Castles (Dig)
Genres: Dance & Electronic, Alternative Rock, Pop, Rock
Listen to Samples
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RYF7H | 03/15/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I was first exposed to the self-titled debut of the Ontario-based Crystal Castles about a year ago, and found myself immediately entranced by the duo's eclectic off-brand emotional electronic sound. Ethan Kath's mix of strong, repetitive base beats and experimental usage of overlaying sounds produces and endlessly-listenable soundtrack in which one easily loses himself. Throw in the occasional presence of Alice Glass's dynamic vocal style, which ranges from punk-rage to smooth melodic and even shows moments of pop influence, and the result is an immensely entertaining and interesting album.
While Kath produces the beats throughout the album in the tradition of Electronische Musik, using purely electronic sound, he does not shy away from the world of sampling, manipulating tracks from artists such as Death From Above 1979, HEALTH, Grandmaster Flash, Van She, and others to bring further depth to his music. In doing so, he is able to bring emotion and meaning into tracks that do not incorporate Glass. Compositions such as "Untrust Us", "Magic Spells", and "Reckless" evoke sentiments not normally felt in electronic tracks that utilize the driving dance beats that Kath uses so habitually throughout the album. While on first listen these songs seem designed to produce the involuntary movements of the head, hips, and limbs that the techno-dance genre often does, upon closer listen one finds that there is more to be discovered. Unlike many albums in the genre, it is easy to lay back and just listen to "Crystal Castles". It can be an oddly introspective experience, taking you through yourself and back without telling you what, if anything, you will find. There is an emotional presence in the tracks that is often lacking in electronic music when lyrics are forsaken.
From time to time throughout the album the power of Kath's beats is amplified by his vocal partner Alice Glass. In the seven tracks on which she is featured, her voice incorporates itself flawlessly into the composition, as if it came from an electronic source itself. This is in part due to Glass's dynamic vocal ability, and in part due to the expert vocal production of Matthew von Wagner, drawing on the live sound manipulation techniques of the Musique Concrete movement of the 1940's and 50's. Wagner uses these techniques so brilliantly that Glass's voice is almost unrecognizable as human in tracks such as "Xxzxcuzx Me". Ethan Kath has taken these manipulations a step further in the group's live performances, in which he uses live treatments of Glass's voice in songs such as "Crimewave" to emulate the original track's sound, which borrows from the HEALTH song of the same name. Regardless of production, however, Glass's vocals have an unmistakable presence on the album. She provides at times both the rage of a tormented soul and the melody of a spirit at peace, and does each equally effectively, an impressive feat on an album that features her on less than half its songs.
The key to the album as a whole is its delicate balance of solid beats and chaotic melodies. It contains dancefloor-worthy works such as "Vanished" and "Courtship Dating", which have appeal for even the most timid of listeners, but simultaneously does not shy away from the more experimental melodies found in "Xxzxcuzx Me" and "Air War". Even these tracks, however, are based on unyielding background beats that provide a structure to their chaos. In this, the album may prove disappointing to the fans of experimental extremes and noise music, but it is a solid composition for any listener of more traditional electronic music, and serves as a great first-listen to those new to the genre.