Crystal Castles are one of the more recent––and more popular––bands to dispel the notion that abrasiveness and escapism are mutually exclusive. More underground outfits discovered this long ago and never looked back. Just this year, albums from Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Ital, Swans, and Andy Stott have demonstrated that exploring dark places need not be a cold, lifeless exercise.
Crystal Castles’ initial releases seemed to share this assumption. Their first full length was a concentrated explosion of biting synths and shrill vocal distortions, which suggested that their creators operated with a combination of apathy and masochism. Yet, albums (I)and(II)also had numerous moments of sleek catchiness (“Untrust Us,” “Year of Silence”) and some legitimately chart-friendly numbers (“Crimewave,” “Not In Love”). Further, their 2010 release often abandoned Glass’s shrieking vocals in favor of a sound that bordered on dream-pop.