On the way up – when the duo were making their name through blogosphere hype, and living off the profits of secretly bootlegged recording sessions – Crystal Castles excelled through being different. Blending a body-swerving, fist-throwing brand of electronica with sporadic bouts of glow-stick flicking, nu-rave fuelled intensity. II (yes, we know, cringe) is nothing if not more of the same, though -Castles latest effort is a touch more subtle than the sledgehammer-dance style of their debut.
Expect, then, droning lyrics, bassy rhythms and irregular moments of almost tranquilizing calm set against a back drop of what can only be described as unmitigated musical carnage. Oddly, it’s when Alice utterly loses the plot – see -Baptism’ – that she’s at her best. While we can barely make out a single word throughout the entire album, her slower vocal efforts are almost instrumental, at times Bjork-like in their oddity but mainly so off the wall they’re difficult to enjoy. When Ethan takes over on vocals – such as in the far from violent -Violent Dreams’ – we’re still listening to a style that’s more instrumental than lyrical, but there’s something strangely enticing about his muffled efforts nonetheless.
As always, Crystal Castles utterly confound. There are moments of perfection, spots of clarity amongst the muted throbbing and nonsensical volume changes that are of almost seminal beauty, but they’re few and far between, stifled notably be the use of effects such as the incessant droning and autotune ridiculousness of the pointedly experimental and ultimately painful -Vietnam’, which – despite its shambolic structure – has some quirky and memorable keyboard moments tucked away in the heart of it. -Celestica’ and the short but harshly sweet -Doe Deer’ offer intense 2am dance floor material, but then we’re reminded of just who were listening to with farcical tracks like the eclectic (sounds like it was recorded underwater) shambles that is closer -I Am Made Of Chalk’.
Crystal Castles are one of those bands you have to -get’, and in truth most people are going to fall into the category of either absolute adoration or unadulterated hatred. They’re lyrically pointless, but take familiar, danceable rhythms and distort them into a heavily manipulated, brain-configuring style of experimental electronica that – especially late in the evening (we tested its 3am durability – much better than during daylight hours)- seems like a new world entirely. The highlights are astounding, yet few and far between, and you’ll just have to get past Alice Glass’ high-pitch, slightly demented MC act first. Proceed with caution.