Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Review: Crystal Castles' "Crystal Castles"

"Wow," a friend wrote to me when he heard Crystal Castles for the first time, "I can't believe you'd listen to stuff like this." I have wondered the same thing over the last few weeks, as I've played the bands first and only album, released earlier this year. I bought the album after I saw some footage of singer Alice Glass performing "Alice Practice" at the Glastonbury festival this summer, a spinning and pogoing dance that would pull in anyone who has any interest in live shows.

But that's not enough to explain it. The album is hardly represented by that one track, which sits on top of the others like an angry dog protecting the home it's made among the dust heaps of electro beats and broken samples. Something more attracts me to "Crystal Castles." Being an urban 'youth' myself (I'm at least half honest there), I always find sounds that make me feel a cold city space draw me in. Since I heard my first Joy Division song at least 15 years ago, I've loved that sterility in music.

Still, there is a lot of stuff that would qualify on those grounds, and much of it wouldn't require me to buy an album in which I'm yet to grasp a single lyric - usually a killer for me with new music. Certainly the album is uneven sometimes too, sometimes too digestably smooth for my liking, occasionally even sounding like a very shiny backing track to some unspeakable pop hit to come. It remains a mystery, but I'm digging deeper into the album, and my own mind, to see if I can make sense of it.

Perhaps it's the digging that counts. I bought another album recently that shall remain nameless, which I got into almost immediately, but was left with the uneasy feeling that it was too quick to win me over. I don't want to be treated that well by new music, or I start to choke on the sound as I gulp it down. Crystal Castles doesn't give me that easy, comfortable recognition of 'music I like,' and perhaps in the end, I'll decide I don't. The process the band has put me through though has rewards too, and I thank them for that.


Richard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard said...


Thanks for introducing me to Crystal Castles. I love this kind of music simply because it sounds exactly like every video game sound track from the 80's.

In fact at times it feels so willfully nostalgic that it can be off-putting to someone like me, who as a kid spent more time listening to three channel bleeps than actual albums.

Never the less I still like it a lot and I'm constantly surprised more people don't call out the computer game connection. Especially since "Crystal Casles" is an old Atari game!

Richard said...

If anyone isn't familiar with the classic computer game music check out these examples:

Impressive stuff when you consider it was all done by writing machine code for an 8bit processor.

Somehow I don't think Crystal Castles are taking that approach.

Nick Parker said...

This review has now also been posted by the very nice people at the recently resurrected rhinopslode (

Go forth, read and contribute.