Friday, December 12, 2008

Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles (2008)

Slotting in nicely with the fast-rising chiptune community, Crystal Castles' self-titled debut brings an invigorating medley of electronic tunes for those looking for something more edgy than YMCK. Their style mixes spunky girl vocals in with chip emulation, heavy sampling, and more organic sounds to create an album that's as rebellious as it is introspective.

This isn't pure chiptune, but it most certainly goes well with it. The soft, pixelated warble of emulated 8-bit sounds lend their unique childish energy to make the songs really hit home. It all harks back to a time of flashing arcades, bad Nintendo peripherals, and youthful exuberance. There's just a pervasive sense of fun to their music, something that shouldn't be missed. And it's not all about the upbeat dance numbers, either. Their debut takes time to explore different moods, with the mid-paced meander of songs like "Magic Spells" and "Reckless" balanced nicely alongside the foot-pounding urgency of "Black Panther" or "Xxcxuzx Me." Singer Alice adds a punk bite to the songs that fits perfectly. At the end of it all, you actually feel like you've listened to an album rather than a collection of formula modifications. It's hard for me to get across how great this album is, since much of that lies in their unique application of sounds as opposed to technical prowess, but this is easily one of my top albums of the year.

Crystal Castles have an interestingly negative history online, due to their uncited samples of other chiptune artist's in early songs and the use of a Japanese graphic artist's design on demo covers and shirts, but it seems that they've cleared everything up and moved past all that. They also sometimes get lumped into the new rave movement, most likely due to remixes of bands such as Klaxons. Internet drama aside, Crystal Castles have started out with an excellent debut that has kept me entertained for months with no signs of abating, and you should check them out if you love fresh electronic music.

Verdict: Epic Win [5/5]

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