Crystal Castles were an electro-punk duo hailing from Toronto active 2003-2014. As the story goes, the project started around 2004 as a platform for producer Ethan Kath to release his harsh, 8-bit leaning remixes and originals. Discovering singer Alice Glass in an all-girl punk band at the tender age of 17, Kath invited her to perform vocals over some of his instrumentals in studio. Unbeknownst to Kath and Glass, the engineer recorded and mixed this trial session, giving rise to their first single “Alice Practice” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e2FOnrFlEJY), a highlight of their killer debut album and the reason for their original record deal.
In true punk / DIY manner, Crystal Castles did things their way, offering sparse and fruitless contact with media, frequently were in hot water regarding copywrite issues, and put on insanely loud, high-energy shows. At the helm, Glass is a true rocker, badass to the bone, regularly performing with various injuries and ailments, and openly vocal about her disdain for prejudice and inequality. Underneath the strobe lights and hoopla surrounding Crystal Castles, however, is a talented pair of songwriters. Traversing styles from gritty bitrock to dreamy synthpop with vocal overlays from auto-tuned distorted mess to pure, pretty singing, they pack a truly versatile punch. Or dropkick.
In 2008 Crystal Castles released their debut self-titled album (now referred to as “(I)”, as all 3 of their albums are self-titled), a highly-acclaimed 17-track collection of incredible innovation and style. I think it’s one of the best electro albums out there. Follow-up 2010 LP “(II)” demonstrates a similar range and provided their first international hit, a cover of Platinum Blonde’s “Not in Love” featuring Robert Smith of The Cure (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32udqal_lyQ). 2012’s “(III)” was a deviation from the path, with the band intentionally getting rid of all equipment they owned and trying to craft a new sound from the ground up. Although I do admire the notion, the resulting album is a bit of a footnote in comparison to their first 2. They’ve also provided a variety of remixes for the likes of Health, Liars and Bloc Party.
Favourite track: Black Panther (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pd90vlSLtEU)… Untrust Us, Crimewave, and Courtship Dating are also excellent samples from “(I)”.