(III)

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Crystal Castles have staked out turbulent electronic territory, a landscape of murky whirlpools and shimmering black sand that’s continually vulcanized. Their latest self-titled album, (III), is crawling with sticky earworms, disembodied beats and vocals that drip with wispy menace. This time around, the partnership between the ghoulish Ethan Kath and icy punisher Alice Glass made an executive decision to jettison their usual knobs and buttons, instead taking a bare bones approach. Still retaining their gritty outlook and no holds barred attitude, many of the songs hit with a distinctly serrated edge. Just as II expanded upon the manic sounds of its must-hear precursor, (III) curls together all the strands of the band’s dense pallete weavings. The record wavers between all the areas of their bottomless range. The album opener “Plague” rises from waves of monolithic smog, leaving behind webs of layered chimedream disco. Standout track “Wrath of God” oozes on an eerie teardrop pulse that feels at risk of tipping over into despair. The abyssal convulsions of “Insulin” follow in the jagged footsteps of fellow hundred-second kamikaze capsules “Doe Deer” and “Xxzxcuzx Me”. “Kerosene” makes use of the Castles’ signature alchemy, grinding together a mewling swarm of chirps and a plucky stutter beat into an addictive mixture. “I will protect you all the things I’ve seen,” goes that song’s refrain. Lyrics are not always discernable, but thats part of the point: Crystal Castles want to slither around your reasoning faculties. It’s why this group was so compelling when they first burst onto the scene. But aside from “Violent Youth”, (III) (the duo’s shortest effort yet) has an unsteady and retreading back half. The album is mostly interesting, but it makes one wonder if the spark of raw ingenuity that seared their first records is finally flickering.