By Jon Fuchs, Music Director
[Loma Vista; 2017]
Key Tracks: “Without Love,” “Natural Selection,” “Blood Oath”
Amnesty (I), last year’s Crystal Castles album that was the first without lead vocalist Alice Glass, felt like a parody of itself, seeing the band play it safe for the first time in their career, resulting in a collection of embarrassingly exhausted tracks that sounded like Ethan Kath ran out of ideas. Glass’ departure from Crystal Castles in 2014 to focus on solo material was a huge blow to the group’s future, since her aggression and audible personality was a big part of what made them so interesting. But at the same time, it was equally ambitious, since no one really knew what else she had up her sleeves.
Three years later, we finally get Glass’ first collection of solo work: a self-titled EP released by surprise that has more witch-house atmospheres, containing sounds reminiscent of Purity Ring, Grimes and oOoOO.
“Without Love,” the EP’s single and opening track, was received with mixed reactions, but in the context of the EP, it’s really a great way to set the mood for the six tracks, which are noisy, abrasive and filled with bass, as to be expected. Easily the most accessible song on the EP, “Without Love” takes a few listens to get into, but it’s completely worth it when you find yourself bobbing your head to the chorus.
With songwriting and production help from ex-HEALTH member Jupiter Keyes, Glass is able to keep up the same consistency that “Without Love” has with tracks like “Forgiveness” and “White Lies,” by keeping the heavy production without getting too repetitive. Every track has its own different highlights, such as the mixing on “Forgiveness” or the fantastic vocal work on the intense “Blood Oath.”
The EP’s noisier tracks are worthy of praise. “Natural Selection,” the shortest song of the six, is also the loudest, with the almost Arca-like production matching perfectly with Glass’ autotuned shrieking of the line “GET THE FUCK OFF OF ME.” That song and “Blood Oath” are easily the most abrasive tracks on the EP, with “Blood Oath” containing a thumping, gabber-like beat that is intoxicatingly catchy. “The Altar” closes the 18-minutes up with the quietest track of her career, with incredibly soft vocals set to gentle, ambient-like synths.
Not everyone is going to love Alice Glass’ change of pace from the complex instrumentals of Crystal Castles to a noisier take on witch-house. But there’s no denying that Glass proved her originality and creativity will last as a solo artist with this EP, and her punchy, more consistent approach to electronic music. Hopefully, her future solo material will show to be just as catchy and fun as her work in Crystal Castles.