Thursday, January 29, 2009

Top 10 Albums of 2008: 5. CRYSTAL CASTLES - Crystal Castles

One of the most divisive acts of 2008, singer Alice Glass and multi-instrumentalist Ethan Kath certainly don’t seem to be out to win any popularity contests. Most of the controversy surrounding them centres around their lax attitude towards issues of copyright: they used artist Trevor Brown’s striking black-eyed Madonna image without permission, and uncredited samples were featured in a number of their tunes posted on MySpace. As well as that, they have an unfortunate habit of cancelling gigs, and had the plug pulled on their Glastonbury set due to Glass’ reckless rig-climbing antics. However, the vicious backlash they’ve suffered at the hands of the blogosphere has had the unfortunate effect of overshadowing what is a very impressive debut album. While their trademark Atari-like 8-bit synths, pounding percussion and distorted, barking vocals are present and correct on tracks like ‘Alice Practice’ and ‘Xxzxcuzx Me’, the music on offer here is far more eclectic than their reputation as electro noise terrorists would suggest: the hypnotic, atmospheric soundscape of ‘Magic Spells’ rubs shoulders with the deliriously catchy ‘Good Times’; ‘Reckless’ and ‘1991’ recall the Gallic grooves of Daft Punk; while the biggest curveball of all is saved for the final track, ‘Tell Me What to Swallow’. A haunting shoegaze lament reminiscent of Kevin Shields’ solo work, it’s typical of Crystal Castles that a song that sounds so outwardly beautiful is, on closer inspection, the narrative of a child who enjoys being abused by her father. Some people are just magnets for controversy, eh?

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