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May 12, 2008 | by  | in Music |
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Album Review: Crystal Castles – self-titled

This is the first album released by Atari-electro-core band Crystal Castles. The Toronto-based two piece that lists “murder”, “blank looks on girls” and “knives” as their influences, have created a unique sound; part Atari 5200 sound effects (produced via a sound chip placed inside a keyboard), part electronica, part hardcore.

The band accidentally became famous when singer Alice Glass recorded a microphone test, named ‘Alice Practice’ and put it on the band’s Myspace page. Record companies contacted the band, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The first track on the album, ‘Untrust Us’, kicks off the album with a classic electro-pop sound, using robotic vocal distortion and catchy electronic hooks to create a bouncy, upbeat feeling. The intermittent use of Atari sound bites makes the instrumental background seem like a backing track to a Super- Mario game.

Songs like ‘Alice Practice’, ‘Love and Caring’ and ‘Courtship Dating’, use screaming vocals and a myriad of bleeping, shrill, computer-like sound effects to create uneasy, fast-paced electrocore. This effect is amplified one thousand fold for track ‘Xxzcuzx Me’ which is an explosive (and, at times, unpleasant), mix of schizophrenic bleeps, blips, electronic ramblings and sobbing, angry vocals which culminate in a mass affront on the ears, which basically made me feel like I’m about to have a giant panic attack, or an epileptic fit.

Some songs have a more house-y feel, like ‘Knights’ where barely distinguishable vocals mumble over poppy, happy samples, which launch into an electronic throb. If only this track was about 4 times faster, it would definitely be a hit at any sweaty rave. A large majority of the remain tracks such as ‘Vanished’, ‘Magic Spells’, ‘Reckless’, and ‘Crimewave’ (Crystal Castles vs Health) have a touch of Ratatat to them, insofar as they contain laidback electronic melodies, backed by a solid drum beat, and occasionally containing soft, echoing vocals songs.

The album’s final track, ‘Tell Me What To Swallow’ has a raw beauty to it, with gentle, whispered vocals sitting atop strummed guitar chords, fading into a dreamy soundscape with wordless, multi-layered vocals floating softly through octaves.

This album showcases the band’s ability to encompass many styles, from electro-rave to indie, and is sure to be a must-have among the neon rave culture. On the whole, however, it‘s a bit too house-y and repetitive for me, but definitely contains some gems.

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