CRYS­TAl CAS­TleS (Fic­tion

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Crys­tal Cas­tles

Records) Toronto-based elec­tro duo Crys­tal Cas­tles’ 2008 full-length de­but (this fol­low-up, con­fus­ingly, has the same ti­tle) was a loose col­lec­tion of 8-bit gamer rock, new wave, and angsty dig­i­tal punk. The new­est re­lease by Ethan Kath and Alice Glass, how­ever, presents greater mu­si­cal and the­matic sym­me­try. Glass still screams into the mi­cro­phone as if she’s be­ing skinned alive, but this al­bum of­fers more respites from her de­li­ciously dev­il­ish vo­cal tantrums. Blend­ing synth and sam­pling styles that can be found on some of elec­tro’s most mem­o­rable al­bums (like Min­istry’s Land of Rape and Honey and Book of Love’s syrupy Lul­laby), Crys­tal Cas­tles is loud, glitchy, and ever so echo-screechy, but it also adopts a more pop-cen­tric air. The duo recorded Crys­tal Cas­tles in an Ice­landic church, a Detroit garage, and a log cabin in On­tario. Kath and Glass’ trav­els have ex­posed them to a broader range of elec­tronic mu­sic, and here they put what they have ab­sorbed on the road to good use — with­out stray­ing too far from the sound they’re al­ready cel­e­brated for. It’s ev­i­dent that they’ve em­braced more trance, rave, and Euro-elec­tro (“Bap­tism,” “Pap Smear,” and “In­ti­mate”) while ex­plor­ing darker, deeper lyrical ter­ri­tory (“Suf­fo­ca­tion,” “Ce­lestica”). Al­though this sopho­more al­bum is a bit tamer in­stru­men­tally, Crys­tal Cas­tles’ foun­da­tion stands as strong as ever. — Rob DeWalt

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