With wavelike ferocity, Alice Glass and Ethan Kath have drenched and dilapidated the crumbling ruins of dance music’s 21st century incarnation. Not only have they refused to pander to this particular council, but they have also aided in revitalising, re-energising, reconstructing and re-programming the formula of Electro.
Or so the trendier end of the music based press would have you believe. On the surface, there music could be construed as innovative and even after penetrating the veneer it still holds up as being something quite unlike the vapid output of the Bassline or NuRave scenes. The sound is enough to make you snort your tea and flail your arms in rhythm to the 8bit beats (provided by a keyboard fitted with an Atari 5200 soundchip) but, once your delve into the accompanying vocals and you glance over the lyrics sheets for the haunting ‘Tell Me What To Swallow’’ (‘Daddy’s let me sleepwalk/Without him I am secure/The only girl he’d never hurt/The one who smells so pure’’) or ethereal ‘Vanished’’ (‘In the dark/Come out and play/We are it’s children/Here to stay,’’) you realise these are idle lyrics from an aspirant teenage poet trying to emulate Edgar Allan Poe. Or the substanceless melo-drama of a girl who wishes she was a rape victim.
Though, where the songs falter in lyrical content, they make up for in sheer exuberance of sound. When listening to the album in it’s entirety you pass through a vortex of chiptune sampling, which instantly propels you back to a childhood of pixellated vision, and instils a strange ominousness into the air. We also have thrashing incoherence, buoyant '80s nostalgia and an acoustic track that is very reminiscent of Blue Oyster Cult’s ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’’. Each song on the album translates well to live performance, which is where Crystal Castles really thrive. There energetic sets have been described as like ‘watching a bullet travel through fire’’ and compared to ‘a tumultuous love affair where you crave the hostility’’. Having seen them perform at London Astoria, I had a revelation regarding there professed importance. When hearing and viewing them at a close proximity through the kaleidoscopic vision provided by the hallucinatory lighting, I realised what a primal force they are. Alice Glass’s choleric disposition and saliva inducing charisma infected the blood stream and this gave the presumed futility of ‘Alice Practice’’ and ‘Airwar’’ an inflated significance.
For this galvanic effect on your brain and the rebuking of convention that Kath’s sound has achieved so brilliantly, the Crystal Castles two-piece may well be considered leading lights of 2008. Watch the stars in space.