Crystal Castles are easier to like when you don’t know much about them. A few minutes of Googling will turn up blog hype, peevish obscurantism, media “pranks,” a name inspired by a She-Ra play set and other signs of insular indie narcissism. So forget the Internet and enjoy the record. The Toronto duo—Alice Glass sings and plays keyboards, Ethan Kath does most of the rest—draw on synth and techno influences from Yaz to Utah Saints to the already ancient mini-wave of millennium electroclash. Their songs are often pretty, usually moody, and sometimes abrasive. “Alice Practice,” an early single, sets a snarling Glass to 8-bit video-game static (courtesy of a soundchip from an old Atari console).
They have a sideline in remixes for bands like Bloc Party and Liars, and a few of those show up here. “Untrust Us” renders Death From Above 1979 all but unrecognizable, and “Crimewave” does the same for L.A. noise-rockers Health. In both cases, a short vocal hook is reduced to its melodic essence, chopped up and then looped over dreamy keyboard lines and loping beats.
And while the album is overlong, you wouldn’t want to lose the gauzy closer, “Tell Me What to Swallow,” which has an ethereal Glass going all luminous while Kath (I assume) strums an acoustic guitar. Like much of what Crystal Castles do, it is unexpected and welcome.