Crystal Castles - Amnesty (I)

Crystal Castles – Amnesty (I)

Undoubtedly, Alice Glass was integral to Crystal Castles’ foundation and rise. Her visceral, secretly-recorded vocals on glitchy debut single ‘Alice Practice’ saw record deals come pouring in, and she made a mesmerising front woman, as unrestrained live as she was difficult and impenetrable in interview. But when she announced her departure in October 2014 and Ethan Kath forged on regardless, it was hard to imagine this having any impact on their recorded output. As an established act with a loyal and fanatical following Kath is the soul musical force behind Crystal Castles, and on Amnesty (I), the first non-eponymous CC album, you’d be hard pushed to know that her replacement, Edith Frances, has taken over. Yes, it’s like when Kim Jong Un took over in North Korea, but without the stupid mandatory hairstyle.

And so Amnesty (I) is a very typical Crystal Castles album. With the new name, and therefore presumably the start of a new series of albums, you would expect some sort of redirection, but this is truly the softest reboot ever. And if CC was any other act it would not be tolerated – repetition is often the shortest route to critical indifference – but because they cut their own completely distinct they continue to sound cutting edge (though the edge is blunting).

That furrow is comprised of two distinct parts always in tension: on the one hand the urge to make melodic, almost soulful synthpop (as on ‘Femen’, ‘Ornament’ and ‘Their Kindness Is Charade’) and on the other to shred it all up (as on ‘Fleece’ or ‘Enth’), sometimes via low level audio blurring and sometimes via full on, fuck it up as much as we can, synthpunk shredding. It’s a heady mix, both intoxicating and uncomfortable. Imprisoned within Crystal Castles is a pop genius, but Kath’s propensity towards doing things the hard (punishing?!) way means that fans will never get that accessible, sweet album they so secretly crave. He gives and he taketh away…

Ultimately, it’s the tracks where CC manage to combine their disparate intentions (such as on the majestic ‘Frail’ and slightly less so ‘Char’) where they’re at their most hypnotic and complete.

And so, despite the departure of Alice Glass, people may react with disappointment to the sameness of Amnesty (I) and its disjointed nature. Wouldn’t a CC album that embraced the ethos and simplicity of In Rainbows be something special? But for now, this will do.

Release Date 19/08/2016 (Fiction Records)

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Chris Gilliver

I started out writing for the Manchester Evening News as a freelance journalist back in 2008. The idea that I would be given free access to music and gigs seemed somehow miraculous to me, and I proceeded to take full advantage of the situation. When the M.E.N. decided to constrict its coverage to only the very biggest bands, Simon Poole approached me with a plan to make sure that all the very talented musicians of this world that pass through and/or live in Manchester would not go unnoticed. As the New Releases editor here at Silent Radio Towers, it remains my proud duty to cast a critical eye over the music and reviews that come my way in a manner that is both supportive and fair. Above all, I strive to write as entertainingly possible. Favourite musicians include the Pixies, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Mercury Rev, Os Mutantes, The Knife, Beach House etc etc. I'm a firm believer that all genres (except nu-metal) contain music of great quality...