Crystal Castles Navigate Middle Ground on ‘Amnesty (I)’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

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crystalcastles22In the four years since the release of 2012’s Crystal Castles (III), the electronic duo has experienced some tectonic changes leading up to their latest and much-anticipated LP release Amnesty (I).  For any Crystal Castles fan potentially living under a rock -Alice Glass left the group in October of 2014, citing creative differences and preservation of artistic integrity as her reasons for departure. Edith Frances has since taken over vocals on Ethan Kath’s melancholic beats, and has done so in such a seamless manner that discerning between the two, takes serious scrutiny. While many fans have obnoxiously claimed fealty to ‘Team Alice’ or ‘Team Ethan,’ the band’s latest effort, Amnesty (I), should prove to diehard Crystal Castles fans that the dark and infectious charm that fans originally fell in love with, still lurks within the DNA of Amnesty (I).

On their last effort, Crystal Castles (III), the sound was focused on creating a magnanimous wall of abrasive dissonance- that pulsated and thrashed- rather than rely on the 8-bit glitch hooks that defined their earlier work. Amnesty (I) carefully navigates a middle ground- retaining the shear magnitude of their last album-while revisiting some of the ethereal ambience and dance-centric influences of their early career. Tracks like “Fleece,” “Enth,” and “Concrete” all retain heavy, industrial, dissonance that calls back to the last album.  “Concrete” stands out from the rest as it evolves into a rave-like banger that induces trance-like dancing.

The only noticeable difference with Alice absent, is that her punkish squeals and unpredictable affectation have been replaced by Edith’s smoother and more ethereal vocals. “Sadist,” “Ornament,” “Choloroform,” and “Their Kindness is Charade” have Edith’s pristine and haunting vocals on display and could easily draw comparisons to Purity Ring’s Megan James.

The strongest originals can be found in the hook-heavy “Char” with wandering synths and wistful vocals, that creep slowly into your psyche, as well as “Frail” that has the ‘classic’ Crystal Castles feel with an acerbic hook and a building chorus that illustrates a beauty found through pain. The biggest let down on Amnesty (I) is its length. With twelve songs that come in around 35 minutes, it is going to take some lengthy remixes to turn the album into a live set. Thankfully Crystal Castles has three other albums to draw off of for their legendary live performances.  The next test for Edith will be if she can escape Alice’s shadow as a brilliant and raw live performer. Amnesty (I) could have marked the demise of Crystal Castles and set in motion a piecemeal attempt to cash in off past glory- thankfully this album can instead be celebrated as the beginning of the Edith era, and fans will have a

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