Crystal Castles Crystal Castles

[Last Gang; 2008]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: indie electronica, blog house, 8-bit Atari
Others: Kitsune, Black Ghosts, Does It Offend You, Yeah?

While the electro-dance scene busies itself with a slew of critical and popular darlings, it seemed like the natural progression was for producers and club-scene wizards to spend the next few months pretending not to cannibalize the French dance scene, all the while still having Ed Banger’s eye dripping from their chin. Impressively, the Blog House phenomenon that emerged around the time of Justice’s Waters of Nazareth EP is chugging along at a healthy pace with the steady content of both Kitsune and Simian Mobile Disco in the last few years, not to mention recent releases by The Black Ghosts and Does It Offend You, Yeah?

But like any genre, this one displays all the trademarked pleasures and flaws of fashion that is accelerating beyond its own control. The intended ironies of platinum lame bodysuits, club urchins, and MP3 blogs that act like tethers to some sweaty dance underground become part and parcel to Indie Dance’s self-concept -- only this level of irony and artifice seems almost symptomatic of something that is due for a meltdown. While it’s not exactly the last days of Rome, the sense of an expiration date existing in the genre gets stronger with every Uffie single.

Crystal Castles are wading in a very similar pool, mixing together ironically nostalgic Atari 8-bit chips into a porridge of electronic dance grooves. In actual functioning society, this kind of overly sardonic yearning for the 1980s can be a problem, let alone in music industries. Wearing a Space Invaders sweatshirt alone is enough of an admission that mainstream society is probably not for you, and that you’d rather live in a damp basement suite listening to Led Zeppelin, give up washing your hair, and bore people with long sermons about a scribble Richard Bartle once made on the back of a bathmat. With a forceful brush of the hand, nostalgia can easily water down to become lazy token gestures.

Yet the Torontonian Crystal Castles create an interesting arena for their brand of electronic indie. While production circles tend to be fairly incestuous in how they share artists to remix, Crystal Castles have not only remained a steadily independent voice in the genre stylistically, but more importantly they manage to teeter seamlessly between nostalgia and a gimmick-free dance aesthetic. Success of this kind can only be had by mutilating ironic references beyond all recognition. And if Crystal Castles do anything well, it is in smashing all allusions to the Atari/cartoon generation of the ’80s into their minute molecular parts and then piecing their electrum fragments into a bigger, newer, musical battlecat.

Every song is serrated with pixel edges, and Alice Glass’ sometimes morose, sometimes lilting like a Valley girl vocals vibrate with such catchy and violent gloom that it’d send any human/marmoset/sentient being into an epileptic dance session. But it’s in that command of irony and self-consciousness that they manage to exist outside of a passing fashion.

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