Label: Polydor Records
Crystal Castles, who probably don’t need an introduction these days, is the experimental electronic duo of producer Ethan Kath and vocalist Alice Glass, and as the album title suggests, this is their third album in their nine years together. Their first album, self-titled, made a big impact on the indie-electro dance scene on a global scale, with its noisy Nintendo-style synths and Glass’s mixture of soft, effect-laden vocals and frustrated yells – a style that soon became adopted by myriads of male-female electronic duos.
The second album, simply titled “Crystal Castles II”, left the ‘nintendocore’ style behind, concentrating more on a straightforward noisy rave/dance aesthetic while still keeping the moody atmosphere that often appeared on their debut. The change in sound garnered an even bigger fanbase and propelled the duo to mainstage material at festivals. They even released another version of Not In Love after the album’s release with The Cure’s Robert Smith taking over vocals on the track.
Within the space of two albums, Crystal Castles had done a lot to implant themselves in mind hives of both the indie and mainstream, their name undoubtedly catching eyes and attention. They could have played it safe and made another album like the second, but again, “(III)” sees them morphing into a lo-fi (more so than before) and darker animal – almost what you’d expect an electronica-based cult leader’s mind to sound like… and they do it well.
Opening track Plague has a monolithic sound, as if a musical message about the coming apocalypse, especially with the first lines: “I need you pure I need you clean / Don’t try to enlighten me”. The overall texture of the track is muffled like the Alice’s vocals are fighting to reach above the surface of the murky electronics (a style continues through the album the majority of the album), the desperate sound is raw and entrancing.
The following track, Kerosene, takes a slightly lighter approach, if not more paranoid and disheartened, featuring a throbbing bass-synth shifting back and forth between phrases as a gleeful high-pitched vocal sample plays over, all the while Alice Glass’s hushed vocals stand in the middle. Again, it feels morose but could easily whirl a field of people into an infectious dance.
Insulin is probably the only obvious throwback to previous sounds with a bass-heavy beat that distorts and Glass brings back the yelling vocals that had been popular before, but this time her vocals are drowned by the bass, giving it an interesting warped dynamic. Violent Youth has a playful techno beat with Glass going by soft vocals, playing on the innocent, child-like sound similar to tracks like Magic Spells and Good Time.
In all, it’s another solid release from Crystal Castles, and although it may not be as full-frontal and abrasive as the previous two releases, “(III)” is just as addictive. The change towards the darker and muddier sound is almost psychosis of the music; the mixed emotions and sounds on the track never really settle on one single mood. Although at times the album carries through with the same tempo, and the experimental side of the duo is slightly withdrawn, there’s nothing that disappoints here. Just a really enjoyable album!
Favourite tracks: Kerosene, Plague, Affection.