Crystal Castles releases (III)
“It feels like the world is a dystopia where victims don’t get justice and corruption prevails,” Crystal Castles singer Alice Glass reflected in an interview with online music blog Pretty Much Amazing. This statement characterizes the atmosphere of the band’s newest album, (III), which is currently available for streaming and will be released Monday.
While the distorted, low-fidelity electronics are reminiscent of Crystal Castles’ 2008 and 2010 albums — (I) and (II), respectively — (III) possesses significantly darker undercurrents. The majority of the tracks seem to channel Glass’ above statement, using deep synth sounds, eerie vocals, and fragmented white noise to allow the listener to experience the lead singer’s personal misery.
The raw, distorted sounds that permeate the tracks add to (III)’s deliberate ugliness. In its effort to capture what Glass and producer Ethan Kath perceive to be a very bleak reality, the record matures the abrasive electronic experiments that typified (I) and (II). The Canadian duo deliberately chose to abandon computers and digital equipment in its production, creating a unique analog quality that manifests itself through unrefined beats and obscure vocals. There are no samples, no covers, and no guest singers. Gone are the catchy, punk anti-melodies of the songs “Courtship Dating” and “Doe Deer”; here, the lyrics shroud themselves in sheets of feedback and pulsing drones.
Glass’ vocals — too quiet in some songs — may be the most distinctive feature of the album. Her mangled language flits through the song “Kerosene,” whispers within mechanical whirrings in “Mercenary,” and soars above melancholy refrains in “Child I Will Hurt You.” “Wrath of God” is arguably the best song in the album, clearly illustrating Glass’ ability to inextricably weave her dark vocals into the fabric of Kath’s compositions — a feature absent from the group’s two previous releases.
Also notable is the album’s use of drums. The rhythms of “Pale Flesh” and “Affection” evoke the hip-hop and stop-timed beats prevalent in the witch house genre. Coupled with elements from genres like noise, drone, and shoegaze, the fusion of chopped and screwed techniques undoubtedly reflects larger musical trends; however, (III)’s intense instrumentation sets it apart from its contemporary electronic counterparts.
Crystal Castles’ latest chapter is a radical departure from its previous releases, eliciting emotion that appropriately responds to our harrowing and uncertain world. Even (III)’s cover art indicates deep horror: A veiled Yemeni woman cradles her injured, naked son. Huge and luminous, the image has been stripped of its context, glowing blacklight purple against a shrouded void.
We must consider the implication that, as we lose ourselves in Glass’ voice from the comfort of our headphones, unimaginable terrors roil elsewhere. Even the track names — “Plague,” “Kerosene,” and “Violent Youth” — allude to real human atrocities. (III) is unique in its illustration of relevant political and social themes, a feature that distinguishes it from any other record release this month.