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Album Review
Crystal Castles (II)

Crystal Castles (II)
by Crystal Castles


Review Date
Reviewed by
Gareth Meade

Usually electronic music is much easier to stomach if it doesn’t sound like someone deep in concentration, standing behind a complex series of machines. There needs to be an element of instinct about it, as if any decision that was made creatively was made not for the sake of it, but for a real purpose. On their second (and also self-titled) album, Crystal Castles certainly don’t sound like they’re phoning it in, even if they don’t always feel like an organic beast as opposed to a mechanical one.

What Crystal Castles (II) is though, is a carefully controlled mix of hedonistic thrills and reserved melancholy. They’ll happily knock your teeth out on ‘Fainting Spells’ or ‘Doe Deer’ and then subsume you with haunting subtlety on ‘Empathy’ or ‘Violent Dreams’. It’s something that should be familiar to fans of The Knife, who are at times mimicked and at other times revered, but never equaled in terms of menace or originality.

Crystal Castles certainly give it their best shot though, with a frankly overeager running time of fifty minutes plus. It works to the band’s detriment, to these ears at least, simply because being aurally assaulted for that long isn’t that much fun. It’s when the band doesn’t throw all of their ideas into the mix that things work best; like on ‘Empathy’, which is simple, elegant and evolves naturally, or ‘Baptism’, which is arguably the best dance-floor track on the album.

By the end, it’s almost as easy to have enjoyed Crystal Castles (II) as it is to have found fault with it. Yes, it can be visceral and thrilling, but it can also be dull and repetitive. But it’s hard to deny that it’s enjoyable and, more often than not, a thoughtfully natural document. Perhaps one that is best listened to in bursts though.

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