Crystal Castles: (III)
With the advent of digital music services like iTunes and Spotify, physical albums are becoming less and less relevant. But there is a certain magic that comes with actually purchasing an album and having the physical product in your hand. Take Crystal Castles latest album, (III) for example. If you streamed the album, you might think the album is a tutorial in experimental beat making but having the physical packaging reveals that the album has vocals with lyrics!
Listening to (III) is a little like listening to early R.E.M.; it seems like Alice Glass is using her voice as another instrument in the mix. She uses three distinct vocal styles. The first sounds a little like Enya, whispy and reverbed. The second sounds like the Go! Team. This vocal is loud and abrasive, like a distorted shout. The third and final vocal style sounds like the sample from Passion Pit‘s “Sleepyhead” which is to say, it sounds like a tape recorder being played at a high speed backwards. None of these vocal styles are conducive to lyrics but a study of the album’s liner notes reveal that Glass actually has a lot to say.
The album’s opening track and lead single, “Plague” starts with the Enya vocal style before getting into a more shouting style. While it is obvious she is singing something, it is near impossible to tell without reading the lyrics. The lyrics, although abstract, have a sense of “government vs the people.” Phrases like “rewrite their history” and “uproot their colony” are yelled multiple times during the song.
The theme combative tone of the lyrics continue on the album’s second track, “Kerosene.” The track is one of the album’s stand outs instrumentally. It features upbeat drum programming and bassy synth with chopped up vocals laid over it. But the production stands in juxtaposition to the serious lyrical content. The track is an atheist anthem about religion as a drug “lend(ing) them comfort for their sorrow.” It feels like a really unexpected turn considering the song is one of the more upbeat dance tracks on the album.
The anti-religious themes continue through a wide swath of the album with tracks like “Wrath of God” and “Pale Flesh.” These messages would be easy to look over if not for the liner notes which is too bad for Alice Glass. Whether you agree with her position or not, Glass clearly has worked hard to perfect her words and they deserve to be heard. I just hope people do not simple stream the album and never dig further.
MP3: Crystal Castles “Kerosene”
Buy: iTunes or Insound! vinyl