1. Fainting Spells
3. Doe Deer
5. Year Of Silence
8. Violent Dreams
11. Pap Smear
12. Not In Love
14. I Am Made Of Chalk
Pioneers of ear-splitting noise pop, Crystal Castles, banged into consciousness in 2008 with such elusive songs as ‘Alice Practice’ (reputedly a literal vocal test by singer Alice, which was later mastered into their single). Known for their raw, biting electro, elusive personas and nihilistic live shows, they gained a reputation of splitting audiences in two. But now the angst of their debut seems to have dispersed into a tenderer offering with ‘II’.
‘Celestica’ takes a softer beat with soft female vocals and a light pattering of starry electro. ‘Baptism’ takes on an epic dance sound with repetitive beats and a get-to-the-dance-floor message whilst ‘Years of Silence’ echoes in and out of reverberation with a whoosh of self-knowledge and dreamy soundscape reminiscent of Washed Out or Toro Y Moi. A trance/dance combination streams out of ‘Suffocation’ and ‘Violent Dreams’ begins almost in the dusty foot-stepped memory of ‘Born Slippy’ with a haunting, slow beginning and relaxes into a dazed motion which is bleak in it’s apathy.
There are glimpses of the old with ‘Birds’ which leaps, bleeps and glitches all over the show, as muffled vocals sit in the background and an uncomfortable, ominous synth takes over (inspiration from Hitchcock perhaps?). ‘I Am Made of Chalk’ ends the album with a leap into the punk cut-and-paste style Crystal Castles previously held, shuddering into an XX type soft-angular clarity and dispersing in a lapping sea of electro.
Those previously accustomed to Crystal Castles Nintendo electro in songs (such as ‘Xxzxcuzx’) and feeling like they’re going to have to guide Super Mario through twenty levels will be in for a shock with ‘II’ which shows the band maturing. They have left behind the certain and shonky genius which ‘Air War’ and ‘Crimewave’ held and moved into a new territory where a more pensive and celestial mood overrides. From making shocking raw electro masterpieces to a creating music with a real beauty is perhaps a road many didn’t expect Crystal Castles to wander down but luckily they did to show themselves to have a depth many didn’t realise they had.
Listen to debut single Alice Practice here…