Crystal Castles’ roots lie in bleepy goth-dance, and the lo-fi, video-game style of their early songs sounded very much of the bedroom in which they were recorded.
It’d be wrong to say that the Canadian duo have completely left those origins behind with this, their third self-titled album – in fact, there’s much continuity across Crystal Castles’ output. But rather than peddle the same trick, they display steady progression.
Riding a ferocious tide of hype towards 2008’s debut, their graduation from toilet venues to top billing at festivals was swift, and it’s taken a little while for the music to catch up. With their third consecutive eponymous LP, the band’s sonic escalation finally matches the size of their popularity.
Epic more or less throughout, apocalyptically triumphant synths rage in surround-sound, while Alice Glass’ voice rings through the tumult like that of a demi-god trapped in a vast, complex machine. The cyborg singer’s anthropological side is indulged more here than before, as she struggles harder than ever against her robotic restraints.
Glass has always had the strange power to elicit emotion in spite of the dehumanising manipulation of her vocals. On (III) she goes further, frequently surfacing above the cogs and wires to affirm that her soul yet lives.
This dichotomy at the very heart of Crystal Castles is becoming more compelling by the album. On Affection, her performance is truly heartbreaking, words drifting delicately over stumbling programmed drums.
The ironic thing about (III) sounding so immense is that the tracks are typically less cluttered than the last two records. But the core elements are so big, like blasts of pure plasmic energy, that it sounds planet-sized.
It’s not meant for the riot-bating boltholes or ravey discos of yore; (III)’s rightful home is a colossal stadium in space, starships trading laser-blows overhead, as rogue stars collide in the far distance. Meanwhile, a clock above the stage countdowns from 39 minutes to zero, at which point one of two things will happen: Glass will finally break free of the machines that enslave her; or this, the ultimate cosmic venue, will self-destruct.
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