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Crystal Castles debut is one of my favourite albums of the past five years if not my favourite. I have yet to hear a group that comes close to their sound, although perhaps the mention of Heartsrevolution, the yin to Crystal Castles' yang, is in order. The album was so good that I saw past the pair's annoyingly contrived, enigmatic and dangerous image. I obviously had high hopes for the 'sequel' and so bought it in its purist form; gatefold vinyl (I know I'm a hipster douche). I listened to it from start to finish in the dark for the entirety of it's rather hefty running time. Here's what I thought in a track by track sort of way:
Track 1 - "Fainting Spells" okay brace yourself. Ok this is good Crystal Castles are still as abrasive as ever. The track intimidates with a piercing hook, static and garbled Alice Glass vocals. Haunting sounds I can't place enter the soundscape, then BAM. CHORUS. Alice Glass yelps desperately
"I'll make you forget
With The taste of Lambskin
the bounty is yours
it tastes like medicine"
Hook now elevated burrows into the skull and terrifies me in the darkness.
Chorus again. The Drums are epileptic.
Synth Chords now play the hook, beautiful. ends playing static again.
This Song was their opener when I saw the band live. Alice crawled onto the stage like she was posessed and went mental during the chorus, covering her head with her army jacket. Incredible.
This Is probably my favourite track on the record but unfortunately does not surpass my favourites from the debut.
Track 2 - "Celestica" The first single from the album. The band's biggest hit yet (heard it on Hollyoaks once, not like I watch Hollyoaks) making Crystal Castles one of the weirdest bands to get flirty with the mainstream in recent times. The song is quite bland and very polished, contrasting with "fainting Spells". Some nice breezy melodies and a chorus that feels fresh make this pretty accessible for a CC track. Alice's vocals are clearer than they've ever been though straight pop singing isn't her most strong point. Ethan Kath somehow feels the need to slow the vocals down at one point which sounds stupid. Maybe he was trying to make the song less mainstream or something.
Track 3 - "Doe Deer" Crystal Castles II's 'XXZXCUZX ME". Short, VERY loud and very offensive. I heard this on the limited Doe Deer Ep before the album's release. It samples about 3 seconds of Alice's vocals in the song "Insecticon" which was re-mixed for the Doe Deer Ep though the old version, which was only available as a torrent in an album called "Thrash Thrash Trash" is much better.
track 3 throws you right in there with the somehow wrong sounding main riff blasting away, and then Alice chimes in with "DEATH RAY! DEATH RAYEEE!". This is obviously here to challenge the listener's threshhold and may scare some away but if you just embrace it it's pretty fantastic.
Track 4 - "Baptism". This song had been played at Crystal Castles concerts for quite a while and alays gets a great response from the crowd. It's a track that is quite club friendly. Some parts even sound a bit like the Clubland Ibiza songs I hear my brother playing. The chorus is almost sing-alongable as Alice shouts
"This is your Baptism
And You Can't forgive them!"
It sounds like they recorded her vocals in a church, as they're quite echoey. There is one bit that sends me into elation as the chorus ends and we bounce right back into the squealey verse and Glass sounds like she means every painful syllable.
Track 5 - "Year Of Silence" samples a Sigur Ros track though is almost unrecognisable when you listen to the track it's taken from ("Inní mér syngur vitleysingur"). This is another scary one (at least with headphones on in the dark). It is the sound of the apocalypse by way of a gigantic marching army of huge icelandic nihilists with weaponry that are chanting the dissonant foreign lyrics as they destroy. Intermittently there are beautifully melancholic gasps for air done on a synth.
Track 6 - "Empathy" is quite accessible and once again showcases Alice Glass' singing voice. I haven't liked this track since I imagined a music video for it (a booty shaking bikini kind of thing like Aphex Twin's "Windowlicker") and realized that a rapper could make a pretty good song out of it.
Track 7 - "Suffocation". More of Alice Glass' singing, though she may as well have just hummed the tune. A trademark Crystal Castles bassline mixed with what sounds like an airier Celestica knock off. Nah, bit sh*t really, just filler.
Track 8 - "Violent Dreams" is very trippy and eerie. It sounds like a strobe effect. Samples Stina Nordenstam's (I've never heard of her either) "A Walk In The Park". the song is monotonous, encapsulating and atmospheric. Does what it's supposed to though not going to get put on anyone's playlist.
Track 9 is "Vietnam". Sounds Evil and Nihilistic and then the chorus comes in and sounds like a modern update of the labyrinth theme from Sonic 3 but a little creepier due to some helium voices.
Track 10 - "Birds". This song's quite good. It has some pretty badass guitar in it and some old-skool scratchin'. Alice Glass shouts something about a womb or something from about 100 feet away it sounds like.
Track 11 - "Pap Smear". A pretty Catchy song in which you can actually make out the lyrics after maybe two listens. Alice has good Flow and there are cool glitch bits which are cool. Dance like the Jackson 5 for maximum enjoyment.
Track 12 - "Not In Love". Is the album's low point. With the combination of stupid distorted vocals from Ethan bloody Kath and some video game music that sounds like it's been poorly transferred and some out of tune space synth make a pretty sh*tty bit of moosic. Could fit in a bad japanese anime for a love scene though.
Track 13 - "Intimate". plinkity plonkity plinkity plonk. Marble madness music? sure. Crappy 80s Sci-Fi soundtrack? maybe. Eagerly anticipated sophomore album?NO! This is an instrumental track.
Track 14- "I Am Made Of Chalk". A wonderfully textured and strange instrumental closer that sounds like loads of cute little alien animals being born. Fantastic stuff.
Overall the Album has some holes and is definately a grower that is not quite as original and consistent as the pair's debut. It does however create a pretty clear atmosphere which the album's artwork represents quite nicely.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Fainting Spells
3 Doe Deer
5 Year Of Silence
8 Violent Dreams
11 Pap Smear
12 Not In Love
14 I Am Made Of Chalk