Crystal Castles (III)

Published in Five Cent Sound magazine (formerly Chaos magazine).

By Alexandra Fileccia

The Canadian electronic duo Crystal Castles released their third studio album (III) on November 12. They’ve scrapped their old synthesizers and completely took out computers for this album, says producer and band member Ethan Kath—so what you get is a more refined sound. (III), which was recorded mostly in Warsaw, was released under the Universal Music Group label.

“Oppression is a theme, in general,” said vocalist Alice Glass at the Reading Festival in Reading England this past August. “A lot of bad things have happened to people close to me since (II)… I didn’t think I could lose faith in humanity any more than I already had, but after witnessing some things, it feels like the world is a dystopia where victims don’t get justice and corruption prevails.”

Just by looking at the album cover, you can tell it has a more serious feel to it than (I) or (II). The photograph, taken by Spanish photographer Samuel Aranda, depicts Fatima al-Qaws cradling her tear-gassed son Zayed after a demonstration in Sanaa, Yemen. With such a powerful cover image, it only makes sense that the tracks on the album are laced with hidden political themes of oppression.

“Plague” starts out with Glass’ cyborg whisper over a steady synth. It then uses the pounding drumbeat to build up to a chaotic chorus of soft screams. “Infants in infantry/ Rewrite their history/ Uproot their colony/ You’re ripe for harvesting,” she shrieks and ends the chorus by shouting, “I am the plague.”

“Kerosene” doesn’t stand out from the rest of the tracks on first listen, but if you take a closer look at the lyrics the song becomes very chilling. “I can clean impurity/ Wash away with kerosene,” sings Glass in a breathy burst. “I’ll protect you from all the things I’ve seen/ And I’ll clean your wounds/ Rinse them with saline/ Kerosene.” Her haunting vocals end on the lyric “I’ll protect you from all the things I’ve seen,” which becomes more clearly audible throughout the song.

The only track off (III) that resembles Crystal Castles’ old sound is “Insulin” with a playtime of 1:47. Its start and stop choppy style sounds almost as if your headphone jack is shaky. It has the most distortion on the whole album, however not nearly as much as “Fainting Spells” off of (II).

The album signs off with “Child I Will Hurt You,” a trance-inducing track with an airy feel contrary to what the title may imply. Glass sings in a dreamy haze, “Mercy we abstain/ Hope you’re entertained/ Snow covers the stain/ Forray forever.” The song transports you into another dimension and leaves you there to float on Glass’ melodies and reflect on the violence in our world. The phrase “forray forever” implies that our world will eternally be filled with attacks and tragedy.

The album is more polished and has a smoother flow than previous albums. It is one cohesive work of art rather than various experimental tracks thrown together—you are no longer being attacked by the video game rage of (I) and (II). Crystal Castles have matured as musicians producing songs with more meaning than “Courtship Dating” from their debut album. (III) is more then just an album, it is a wake up call for society to notice more than their morning coffee and daily commute.

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