Crystal Castles (Fiction)
Like their beguiling first album (which was also self-titled, because that's just how they are), Crystal Castles' new one is a shattered-glass stew of grooves, glitches, and dreamy electropop. It is more coherent than the debut's mishmash of singles and remixes, and if it doesn't hit as many high points it compensates with consistency. Even the occasional fuzzblast freakout, like "Doe Deer" or "Birds," fits the album's spastic flow. Crystal Castles (II) presents itself as something like a DJ set, peaking and receding in ways reminiscent of Gang Gang Dance's Saint Dymphna. But where GGD are arty-party tribalists, inviting everyone into their headspace, Crystal Castles retain a bratty petulance. There's no song so pretty that it can't be rudely interrupted by a distorted yowl from singer Alice Glass or a squawk of digital scuzz from producer Ethan Kath. The tension between the duo's considerable gifts for melody and atmosphere (see, for example, the swoony "Not in Love") and their electro-provocations keeps them from ever seeming either warm or predictable. It's clear that Crystal Castles could make an embraceable album if they felt like it, and equally clear that they're not interested. It's refreshing, really—they might have 227,000 fans on Facebook, but they at least give the appearance of not giving a damn. They're a two-person social network, and they don't want to be your friend.