Canadian duo Crystal Castles have followed up their debut self titled record with yet another self titled record. Crystal Castles (2010), while shying away from the kind-of radio friendly singles from their debut such as “Alice Practice”, also loses the perfect mixture of fun, doom and experimentation that their debut has. While experimenting is never a bad thing, Ethan’s gone a little too far down the wrong path this time, and come up with an altogether bland, dreary final product.
I think what I miss the most is the 8-bit sounds from the first record. When they went, all the fun in their debut also went. Not that this is necessarily bad – hey, the album cover doesn’t exactly suggest “Yay! Lots of fun to be had on this album!” But they don’t do the doom and depression right. You can tell they’ve tried, and props for that, but it’s a little bit half-arsed and half-cooked. There’s been too much effort spent on making the record dance-able, and not enough on giving it the right atmosphere and feeling. In general, it sounds like someone’s taken Nine Inch Nails, made it more like house music, and flushed it through the toilet of bad-atmosphere (I couldn’t come up with a simile for something with lame atmosphere.)
That being said, Ethan still makes good use of noise in his second attempt, and, as before, the best songs are the ones in which Alice shuts her hole and lets Ethan work his magic. I still don’t get why everyone considers CC a “band”. As far as I know, Alice doesn’t do anything except for sing/scream in a few tracks, and not even the good ones. The standout tracks on Crystal Castles II are definitely the ones without Alice that retain the dance-able beat and chopped up samples which made the first album brilliant. Her voice is used in many ways, but most of them are hardly her and mostly Kath taking her vocals and mushing them into something entirely different.
Crystal Castles II is a jack of all trades but a master of none. The good tracks are too sparse for my liking, with too much shit to sift through in order to get to one. It’s good, yeah, but it’s not great, it’s just.. meh. Personally, I’ll look forward to any solo Ethan Kath release, but I haven’t got my hopes up for Crystal Castles’ future. And I want more 8-bit.
Choice tracks: Violent Dreams; Vietnam; I Am Made Of Chalk
If you like: hmm, well, it is original, I’ll give it that. Maybe The Future Sound Of London; Justice’s softer stuff.