Crystal Castles has had a busy few years. After Alice Glass’ departure in 2014, she and remaining member Ethan Kath feuded tirelessly, hurling insults at one another, before Kath recruited new lead singer Edith Frances. Together, they dropped seven new singles and one music video, leading to the release of the band’s first studio album since Glass’ departure, Amnesty (I), out today.
While Glass works on a yet-to-be released solo album, without her, Crystal Castles continues to deliver moody and melodic electro-punk. Kath blends punchy drums with dark synths, while Frances sings biting lyrics about love and pain, through a thick layer of hazy reverb. The duo combines the perfect amount of angst and goth-y romance above swirling synths, creating Crystal Castles’ own brand of gloomy electronica.
Last April, Kath debuted “Frail,” the first post-Glass Crystal Castles track featuring a then-unnamed Frances. With a classic ’90s trance build, the song showcases a brighter side for the band, and with layered harmonies, serves as a bold introduction for the new lead singer. Second single, “Decide,” is a progressive house banger, featuring Frances’ airy vocals, while “Femen,” uploaded to Facebook earlier this summer, fuses soaring melodies with thrashing drums. Released in July with an accompanying music video, “Concrete” sounds like Pretty Hate Machine-era Nine Inch Nails, showing Frances as she shoves her way through a crowded club, growling, “Father pray to me.”
On “Char,” Crystal Castles goes straight electro-pop, and “Fleece,” revealed earlier this week, follows suit in an ode to ’80s dance and Trent Reznor—again. Last night, the band shared their final single, “Sadist,” a cutting track with a giant drop, just hours before unveiling the new LP.
With Amnesty (I), the duo has honed their craft, bringing together Frances’ lush vocals with Kath’s aggressive production to create just over 30 minutes of introspective electro-clash anthems—a dreamy mix of hard and soft, love and hate. Kath’s pulsing drums and driving synths form a combativeness that, juxtaposed with Frances’ lofty, reverb-drenched vocals, create a dark and controlled chaos. Highlights include “Enth,” which the band teased on Instagram earlier this year, a slicing sonic assault with echoing synths and sparse screams, and “Ornament,” a trippy Glitch Mob-inspired dance track featuring crisp drums. “Chloroform” is another strong point—a down-tempo hit with fluttering harmonies.
Frances succeeds in bringing her own voice to the already established Crystal Castles’ sound, with Amnesty (I) marking the start of a new era in which that sound has already begun to evolve. And as much as we love Alice Glass—“STILLBIRTH” is a strong solo cut—the album shows Crystal Castles doing what they do best: bringing a rough edge to classic house music and filtering chaos through beauty.