Crystal Castles beg for Amnesty (I) on new album

AmnestyFor over half a decade, Crystal Castles have been a big name in the alternative music scene thanks to their electronic punk. Four years since their last album, and with a new vocalist in tow, the duo now return with Amnesty (I).

Amnesty (I) is not without its controversy. Two years ago news broke that the enigmatic Alice Glass had left the band. She quickly released a new solo track, “Stillbirth”, which saw her go in an entirely new direction. After the release she confessed that Crystal Castles was a “deeply miserable” time for her. On the other side of the board, one-time band mate Ethan Kath announced Crystal Castles’ comeback, with new member Edith Frances. In a statement accompanying their first single “Frail”, Kath referred to Glass as a “former vocalist.” The controversy surrounding the statement lost the re-imagined duo a headline slot at Tumblr’s South by South West Feminism themed showcase. So upon release of the new album, the question that everyone really wants to know is, do Crystal Castles still work without Alice Glass?

At its core Amnesty (I) does have the classic spirit and formulaic tendencies of the last four albums. It’s sporadic, it’s industrial and distorted, it goes from heavy to ethereal in the blink of an eye, yet there’s no defining element that makes it better than the albums that came before it.

Opening track “Femen” sets the tone of Amnesty (I) and features a haunting child chorus while introducing a trap influenced beat. This is what Crystal Castles have always been good at, having the ability to pick out the bigger alternative electronic trends and twist them into something very much their own.

Much of the album is a lot of what we’ve heard from the duo before. “Enth” is a frantic, fast paced gloomy trance track over distorted barks. Tracks such as “Fleece” feel familiar with their frantic energy and choruses of vicious trance and barking vocals. “Sadist” is the most ominous track, going  from zero to a menacing one hundred in true Crystal Castles form. Amnesty (I) shows that they’re still a band that likes to keep you on your toes.

The tracks that are something to rave about however, aren’t the ‘traditional’ tracks but the ones that bring something a little different to the table. “Char” and “Chloroform” show the duo’s catchier side: these songs are ethereal and more pop-influenced. When given the chance to do so,  Edith Frances’ vocals show a great range and manage to be ghostly and forceful at the same time. These tracks wouldn’t be the same without her.

Other highlights include instrumental and sample led tracks. “Ornament” has jumpy samples and babyish, indecipherable vocals. It has a quirky edge that makes you want more. “Kept” is reminiscent of instrumental tracks from the original Crystal Castles albums, the up-tempo and obscure cut-up samples make it the most dance-worthy track on the album.

Crystal Castles have accrued enough fans in their decade-long career to live on in their new form, sticking to particular nuances, and distorting some of the current popular genres of alternative electronic music. What is yet to be confirmed is how well the duo will be received in live.  A large percentage of why the band were ever in the spotlight came from the notoriously intense shows they put on. Time will tell whether the new Crystal Castles will be fully embraced.

Release:19th August 2016, Fiction Records

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