RADSOUND // ALBUM REVIEW: AMNESTY (I) // CRYSTAL CASTES
Originally published on Radsound.
For Crystal Castles, 2016 was never going to come all that easy, due to the fact that their lead singer abandoned ship 2 years ago for a midst of reasons left largely undefined, being swiftly replaced by the closest to a replica one could wish for (think that episode of The Mighty Boosh where Lance Dior hits the scene, but in real life. Th, the prospect of them putting out a release plausibly seems a largely uneasy one. However, though fans of the former incarnation of the duo might still be getting to grips with Edith’s uncanny take on Alice Glass, most can rest assured as Amnesty (I) sees no real change in the outfit’s encompassing sound so far, and that’s probably just for the best.
Picking up where III left off, the record is that of no strong or diverse progression in sonic direction, it’s Crystal Castles by definition – jarring synths turned up to earsplitting levels against heavy beats and the occasional high pitched scream-singing of an elusive frontwoman, all confounded by a shroud of gothic cinematics. That’s not to say the record is one to be passed over and disregarded as ‘same old’ – though the recipe is largely the same and Ethan Kath remains at the helm doing what he does best (thunderous electronics), Amnesty is still a record that captures attention years after the band hit their commercial stride, and one with subtle ever-changing differences.
Whilst Glass’ vocals were always a centrepiece of CC tracks past – smashing through the glitchy windshields of industrial sound Kath had set up just for that, on this record Edith’s vocals take a step back into the mix. Largely merging into the sonic background and acting as little more than a soundscape-esque injection of subtle and occasional melodies, they’re recalled back into the mix as swiftly as they’re made noticeable – Concrete and Teach Her How To Hunt are shining examples of this dissolution where the synths take a stronghold, and even on Fleece, one of the most aggressively assertive moments, the vocals tend to fall into the back of your mind as atmospherics, albeit enjoyable ones, but not exactly featuring the unavoidability they once had.
However, where the record really takes hold is it’s focussed moments of sheer musicality – the interweaving pounding basslines on Enth, the intricate digital mastery of the Beach House sampling on Kept, even the subdued soaring lines on almost beautiful closer Their Kindness Is A Charade – all pick up the album’s sense of twisted charm. The record is entirely likeable. No matter how much you wish you weren’t enjoying it because its been 6 years since you cut your long fringe off and stopped insisting on wearing your black hoodie indoors at all times and that phase is well behind you now.
Likewise, the compelling elements that keep the record afloat are the same ones set to be fuelling the chaotic live sets the record will bring with it, and with an reputation for just that, Amnesty is a record that, given some time and consideration, is likely set to rekindle all lost doubts of Crystal Castles falling off the conveyor just yet.
Amnesty was released 19th August and the duo follow the record with a run of UK, US and European dates across the Autumn.