If you are a summer festival concert goer, odds are you have seen Crystal Castles live and watched 20,000 screaming fans go berzerk to an 8-bit plasma gun explosion of techno beats supplied by Ethan Kath and the witch house fueled echoing voice from Alice Glass.
Alice Glass Departure
In 2014, the most unexpected and unwanted thing happened with the departure of Alice Glass from Crystal Castles to persue her own solo projects. As fans, we were crushed at the thought that the hero card that we always bring to battle is now but a memory. After 3 Earth shattering albums, surreal music videos, live gigs that tested every front-row bouncers patience with Alice's vicious right hook and now we are silent? This cannot and shall not be, not with Ethan Kath behind the mixer.
So welcome aboard Edith Frances, the newest member and front person to drive the vocals for Crystal Castles. I do not envy your position, you have a loyal army of Alice Glass fans to somehow impress and of course, the critics are ready to pounce all over you. Yet, Edith, if you are reading this... you have impressed the crap out of this blogger. In the past month (Sept-Oct 2016), Instagram has been lighting up with videos and images of the latest Crystal Castles live tour and there you are, behind 1000 strobe lights and a giant mosh-pit of sweaty fans that cannot wait to share their life changing experience with the rest of us on social media.
September 2016 and the new Crystal Castles album drops (on CD first, damn damn damn) and the fan barometer is probably 50/50, despite the popularity of the early single leaks of Frail and Char. The fans are waiting to be disappointed but I was there and got the CD the moment it came out. And by the way, it is October 11th and I still have yet to find the vinyl release locally here in Chicago which is fucking killing me (should have just pre-ordered it online, fuck fuck). So track by track blow by blow of this new album from Crystal Castles (post Alice Glass - I love you Alice).
Femen - in all reverse vocals you are drawn into this 4th album and the shivers down my spine already start to take hold. Edith welcomes you to the record with a haunted greeting - "Hello, hello, hello, how low Hello, hello With the lights out, it's less dangerous..."
Fleece - Here we fucking go. Distorted angry synths lead to a heavy techno beat and then the vocals kick in and Edith is going to win you over right here and yes, she wrote the amazing lyrics ... "Freedom is honesty, Freedom is hostility, Take her from her diocese, Place her on the mantelpiece..."
Char - the first single from the album, deservedly so. It reminds me a lot of Crimewave, where it is mellow and slow, but has a catchy synth riff and clean vocals from Edith.
Enth - Form has frayed - Form has frayed - Form has frayed - Has frayed. Edith wrote the lyrics to this song and its crunchy techno beat is in top form. Edith sounds eerily like Alice on this one, not sure yet how I feel about that..but its a decent song. I challenge you to play this and an Alice Glass song back to back with your friends and have them pick the right vocalist.
Sadist - Probably my least fave track on the album, only because there is this sweeping sound effect that is just too difficult to listen to loud or with headphones on. I typically skip over this track when listening to the album.
Teach Her How To Hunt - this instrumental track comes in at the half way point of the album, and takes you on a short journey through the abandoned airplane hangar where on the other side is the promise of an underground rave or something far sinister if you dare keep walking.
Chloroform - a slow song, with lots of Ethan sound experimentalism going on.. a circuit bending solo can be found here, enjoy enjoy!
Frail - another early single pre-album release that watered our appetites in the months leading up to the drop date. Its a perfect signature Crystal Castles tune, and I highly suspect that there is probably an original Alice Glass vocal recording of this, because it sure as shit sounds exactly like something Alice would sing. So I like the track, but now I fucking miss Alice Glass and am secretly imagining there is an Alice vocal version of this that should never see the light of day, but if you plead and beg Alice.. maybe she has it?
Concrete - ok here we fucking go again... this is designed to light up the mosh pit and let the bands playing on the second stage a half mile away that Crystal Castles are here to shred the loudspeakers. Get your best combat boots to Pogo Dance to... its a rave! Probably the best song on the record, but I am not going to say that, so you need to decide for yourself.
Ornament - so this was a very very very fucking interesting track. I don't want to say it was deliberately produced, but if you are into the indie electro goth witch-house group Grimes, this song reminds me a lot like the band Grimes. From the pleasant girly vocals, the friendly snythy swirly chords, the mellow but progressive beat that is clean and not distorted. To me it is the exact opposite formulae used to construct a Crystal Castles song, but would follow the recipe for how Claire Elise Boucher would construct a Grimes tune. Don't get me wrong, I fucking LOVE Grimes, as I bet you do as well. I think Ethan put on his business hat, said ... shit, if Grimes is selling half a million records and doing giant mega tours, maybe I should do a few songs that could fit right in with those fans. And so you have it... Ornament.
Kept - If you are streaming this or bought the album on iTunes, well I am so sorry you are missing out. This is an exclusive track only found on the physical media releases (CD and Vinyl only). It has a mash-up of a couple of dream-pop superstars Beach House songs into the song with a vocal track that promises "I know where no one can reach you. No I don’t mind. We keep these promises, these promises. Write it in a letter".
I love the fact that Crystal Castles give those who buy the vinyl a bonus reward. And for those who bought on iTunes, now's your chance to pick up a record player and buy the vinyl (whenever the hell it comes out domestically).
Their Kindness Is Charade - this is actually a finished remix version of the song Deicide which was released in 2015. I think this song in particular is Ethan's secret message to Alice Glass in response to her departure from the band. The lyrics were written before Edith joined the band to replace Alice, so these are Ethan's words - "...If you are being used - You should remain confused - To keep them amused" which can attest to the claim that Alice was in an abusive relationship with Ethan, leading to her exit. I'm not sure what this means, but the song most certainly has a darker, hidden meaning to it.
In closing, the new album is exactly what I was hoping for and will keep me listening over and over and over until the next CC comes out.
I also want to say that Alice Glass is a rock god and I cannot wait to hear her new album when it comes out.