Crystal Castles’ third album explores darker themes in life

Andrew Fernandez, Staff Writer

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“III” is the third album from the experimental electronic duo known as Crystal Castles. The pair from Toronto has seen a few changes in sound, drifting from low-fidelity retro video game sounds to a grungy electro and shoegazing sound. Occasionally they would sprinkle in a lead single comparable to pop which would pull listeners in and the changes in mood throughout albums alluded to their chaotic nature and live performances. With Alice Glass on vocals and Ethan Kath producing, “III” is their most cohesive album yet, giving a darker and dire mood but not as danceable as their previous material.

The lead single and first track “Plague” strongly portrays how the entire album will sound and flow. The album steps further away from the chaotic and mosh type style and closer towards a more electronically polished and pessimistic view. Deep synths mesh together with Alice’s voice hazing in the background. The extensive use of reverb can leave her lyrics unclear, but not as lo-fi as previous material.

The dire and gloomy mood relates to the album art which can appear creepy or Goth-like at first. It is actually an altered version of an award-winning photo by Samuel Aranda which shows a mother caring for her wounded son during conflicts in Yemen. The album art featured for “III” sheds light on real world problems and the album leaves many themes and lyrics to explore for hardcore fans and committed listeners.

The slower electronic tracks can be comparable to such artists as Grimes, Purity Ring and xxyyxx, but are often gloomier and still instantly recognizable as Crystal Castles. The closest Crystal Castles get to their first self-titled album would be in “Insulin,” but at less than two minutes long can leave older fans disappointed.

“Telepath” is a gloomy house-esque track with no apparent vocals but more rhythmic than most tracks on the album. “Violent Youth” is another track which is a little bit faster paced than most and comparable synth pop and house music, leaving listeners dabs of sounds to dance to. The album ends with its lightest track, “Child I Will Hurt You”, a nearly dream-pop track ending with an easier mood.

The sound is not for everyone or every Crystal Castles fan and the low synths and haziness of Alice’s voice may be overplayed and featured too prominently throughout the album. However, Glass and Kath show steps forward to different sounds showing their willingness to experiment and evolve and produce a solid, consistent album. The dark theme portrayed in “III” paints the horrors and reality of events happening around the world through music, polar opposite of such artists like Sleigh Bells. Fans of past music of Crystal Castles and dark electro can find sounds and themes to ponder upon in “III.”

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