Looking back over my wayward musings I gave Crystal Castles' eponymous 2008 debut a brief but favorable review. With their second delivery 'Crystal Castles II' I see no reason to abandon them. Ethan Kath and Alice Glass are back with a collection of fourteen uncompromising but highly accessible compositions.
The overall sound of the album is "crunchy". The treatments of Ms Glass' voice conceal more than they reveal; this, despite the often jolly dance-friendly nature of the arrangements, brings a nicely sinister flavour to the proceedings. (The artwork is pretty creepy too!)
'Celestica' has an almost-pretty breathy vocal floating over the insistant beats. Waves of melancholy synth chords flow in and out of the mix helping to sustain an uneasy dreamlike ambience.
'Doe Deer', however, is the stuff of nightmares. Ms Glass screeches like a mad witch with a bad grudge. The inner-violence of the track may be a tad unnerving for the faint-hearted. Uneasy-listening.
'Year Of Silence' is another sombre slice of stripped-down techno. (Miss Kittin came to mind more than once). The thumping rhythm would doubtless go down well in some of the darker corners of contemporary urban clubland. (The kind of place where everyone wears black and never smiles!)
'Suffocation', despite its ponderous title, delivers a glimpse of warmth here and there with its almost-uplifting, anthemic theme.
'Birds' is a particularly interesting confection. The squelchy beats, great crashing grungy chords and demented vocals outline a territory which would have interested the venerable Mr Hitchcock, were he still with us today.
Mr Kath has a turn behind the mike for their reworking of Platinum Blonde's 1983 composition 'Not In Love'. It is one of the album's high-points, despite the vocal sounding very much as though it is being performed by a chipmunk. (Listen and believe!!)
Final track 'I Am Made Of Chalk' brings the project to an extraordinary close. The ravings of a savage or suffering long-forgotten underwater creature would appear to have been captured on tape and inserted into this deeply disturbing mix. Not the sort of thing to listen to just before bedtime.
A willfully weird and totally thrilling listening experience!