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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Artist Of The Day: Crystal Castles

In a world where electro-pop has inundated the masses, you can always count on the gloomy electronic duo Crystal Castles to deliver something completely fresh and different. After forming in 2004 and releasing a handful of tracks which quickly became viral, Crystal Castles' debut self-titled album was released to rave reviews. In mid-2010, the band followed up with another self-titled album now known as Crystal Castles (II). The band has played hundreds of shows and festivals, showcasing their musical talents and accompanying them with absolutely chaotic live performances. Towards the end of 2012, their new album Crystal Castles (III) was released, featuring a more atmospheric sound complete with reverb and crooned vocals. Despite the emergence of mainstream electro-pop and indie artists in the past several years, Crystal Castles remains one of the most prominent and talented electronic projects today.

Crystal Castles' music features a variety of influences including noise pop, indie, chip tune, and noise rock. Producer and songwriter Ethan Kath sprinkles 8-bit bleeps and bloops throughout ominous drum beats, sampling other artists such as Sigur Ros on "Year Of Silence." Occasionally, the band surprises the listener with a barrage of blistering drum beats and distortion, such as on "xxzcuzx Me" and "Doe Deer." Other standout tracks of their discography include "Reckless," an instrumental track seemingly inspired by old-school video games, and "Celestica," a more open and inviting track with less distorted vocals, a predictable drum beat, and cascading synth textures. Crystal Castles' newest single, "Wrath of God," showcases their shift to a saddening wall-of-sound approach, while "Pale Flesh" is an agressive song driven by a synth hook and a cryptic wailing vocal delivery layered over deep thumping bass drums.

The reverb-laden (III) is a change in musical direction for the band, but it still feels like a true evolution from the duo's previous efforts. More importantly, the music retains the melancholy themes and lyrics that the band is known for, although ditching the random electronic-thrash tracks that would intermittently appear throughout their other albums. (III) is more focused and organic, and arguably their best record to date. The band has stated in several interviews that they did not use any kind of computers in the studio and recorded the vocals in only a single take, which seems to have worked in the band's favor to breathe a new, authentic electronic air into the lungs of the indie-electronic scene.

If you've never listened to Crystal Castles, you probably should. The band's approach to electronica isn't as inviting as other artists, but something about combining Alice Glass's shrill vocals with melancholy synths hits a sweet spot in the ears. Crystal Castles dare to be different, and continue to impress as one of the best mainstream electronic artists today. 

The band is currently on a world tour and probably playing a show near you within the next several months. You can check out the tour dates on the band's website.

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