Alice Practice One More Time
Crystal Castles have received a lot of flack from the 8-bit/chiptune community, more specifically, musicians who use obsolete video game and computer hardware to make music. 8-bit purists, unlike the general music-listening community, hold the duo in a certain regard, with debates on how Crystal Castles actually produce their blippy, video game-sounding electronic tracks. That debate can finally be put on hold with (III) making way for different recording techniques and ridding of computers altogether. The result: something completely inspiring and possibly welcomed by the duo’s biggest and dearest fans.
“Plague” already bears the fruits of the duo’s labor. Synths on analog tape seem kind of odd these days, but it gives the duo’s first track a haunting, almost vintage film-like quality. Alice Glass and Ethan Kath no longer have the 8-bit arpeggios and random beeps. Instead, we hear classic club synths, pounding electronic drums and barely audible Glass, giving “Plague” a somewhat dream pop, M83 vibe.
“Wrath of God” continues the duo’s new take on production, with less in-your-face beats and more subdued synthpads. Glass’ vocals are, again, given the dream pop treatment, but this time it sounds like she’s locked away, 25 floors under the studio, in a muffled bathroom. Crystal Castles have always had a chilly, darkwave appeal, but “Wrath of God” emphasizes that fact.
“Affection,” the album’s third single is a return to form, with Crystal Castles and Crystal Castles (II)‘s Timbaland-esque production style. Hip hop beats and FL Studio synths carry a whispery Glass along quite nicely. “Insulin” sounds like it came straight from their debut full-length, with Glass’ vocals being heavily chopped up. Distorted synths pop in and out of the lone 4/4 snare. You can say this is where Crystal Castles showcase their synthpunk side.
Album closer, “Child I Will Hurt You,” is definitely the album’s gem. M83’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming and even some Sigur Rós’ influence seep through this track. Pretty ’80s electronic piano, textured synths and angelic vocals paint a soundscape somewhat foreign to Kath and Glass. Crystal Castles have finally found a midway point between fun, indulgent thrash and hyper-emotional, melodic pop. Switching to an analog studio was definitely a risky endeavor for a digital band, but (III) proves some things are worth the risk.