With such sublime depth on offer, Crystal Castles marks a nuanced emotional territory...
Sophie Hammer 2008
Let's call it electro-stentialism, or nouveu nihilism - that brand of desolate dance music that eschews pure hedonism in favour of a bleak wail into the abyss. Black Lips, Hearts Revolution; all that screechy 8-bit electro blah. Cynics might align Crystal Castles with this dark-hued, hipster scene. In truth, Crystal Castles have nothing to do with fashion. Their power lies in their ability to conjure visceral emotion from seemingly inhuman noise - namely Ethan Kath's digital distortions writhing under Alice Glass's agonised vocals.
Yes they're bleak, but this runs far beyond an ambition to be achingly 'now'. Crystal Castles, for all their associations with the Klaxons and Skins, transcend zeitgeist. To listen to this debut album is to be cast adrift in a vortex of deafening pain without a safety net. The sound they create on tracks like 'Vanished' - as lyrics skip by in a elliptical burble of indistinct enunciations - encapsulate the feeling of being young and alive in 2008. The doubt, the fear, the itchy self-destruct trigger finger; the feeling you could do anything in the world, but that nothing would ultimately mean anything. Crystal Castles simultaneously reject and embody Generation Empty Gesture and fire out a cacophony of existential impotence.
While their music may sound robotically callous, make no mistake about it - this electro escape hatch sends you into a turbulent atmosphere of profoundly human emotion. Mostly gnawing emptiness. A blast of famed studio experiment, Alice Practice, or the resolutely unintelligible Xxzxzcuzx Me prove that Crystal Castles are honouring nothing meaningful. It's a stark here and now, and you can forget that fuzzy embrace of musical heritage too. As instrumental splurge, 1991, demonstrates; this is the soundtrack for 20-something chaos seekers who grew up playing Ataris rather than listening to Kraftwerk.
Weilding sonic light and shade, tracks like Magic Spells downshift to mellow, ambient meloncholy. It's a loaded, chilled epic clocking in at 6 minutes, barely able to power its way through a lethargic dose of comedown hugs. With such sublime depth on offer, Crystal Castles marks a nuanced emotional territory that dance music never covered before.