04.06.2010, Words by Charlie Jones

Crystal Castles II

Since their rise to fame, CRYSTAL CASTLES have seemed set on clouding any ounce of originality their music possesses with a crass attack on playing Punk celebrity. All the reviews I have ever read have been filled with valid concerns about their habit of sampling and stealing artwork from minor net artists. But, it pains to say, I actually really like their music, which makes it hard to hate them totally.

Their second album, entitled ‘Crystal Castles’, is both genuinely danceable and captivatingly sinister. Opener Fainting Spells shows their take on production hasn’t changed much, mixing the faux-Punk/Noise thing with sleazy Tron-Tech. Splashes of full static and a rusty old bassbeat emerge over a once lovely string section. If live they lengthen out the clap section it’ll be a guaranteed floor-filler.

Next up, first single Celestica; soft pads, crisp Electro clicks and Alice’s voice finally soaring free over the music. Somewhere betwixt Adult and Stereolab in a retrofit game environment – a perfect audition for a manufactured Techno-sexy doll. Doe Deer is something new to my ears, weirdly referencing both Ed Cox and a noisy band I liked when I was fifteen called The Catheters through broken earphones. A nice lovely violent party tune.

Baptism is next, the solid net-crowd pleaser they tempted everyone with between the two albums. A lovely marriage of abrasive rave and the soaring bliss of a clean synth callback. Year of Silence segues twin vocals over an Electro stomp into Techno bleeps and is thoroughly convincing. Empathy is a little slower paced and feels like something you’d hear on a TV soap trying to sound cool, but with nicer vocalpad work (“it must have been symmetry…” etc). Softer, more reserved, even borderline romantic?

Vietnam clearly doesn’t address the issues surrounding American colonialism, but is pumping and kinda sexy (“mister I’m alive, alive alive…”) and very neat. Birds is as weird as they should be, with Alice singing far off in a bathroom somewhere.

Lastly, Pap Smear, Not in Love and Intimate are not great but the album has so many killer tunes that by this point it doesn’t matter. For a band many wrote off as trendy prima donnas obsessed with 8-bit computer games a couple of years back, ‘Crystal Castles II’ is surprisingly enjoyable. Infuriatingly good.

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