The first time I heard Crystal Castles, the Palladia channel was showing footage of their set at some Hipsterpalooza-type festival. The sound sucked, and the image of a young girl in a short skirt throwing a tantrum over beats and keyboards reminded me of an angry Ashlee Simpson. But something stuck; it was too noisy to ignore. On checking out their self-titled debut I was delighted to hear them sample Death From Above 1979 on the opening track. And then I got it: Crystal Castles are video-game noise merchants who drop fat beats, and sometimes lead singer Alice Glass just has to go out there and freak out over it all. Track by track, the band jump from ultra-ugly to dance-floor beauty. Imagine Justice, minus God but with an angry punk chick, or Skinny Puppy without the horror shtick.
On Crystal Castles II, the group find more continuity. They aren’t averse to shocking, and when they do it makes complete sense. It’s not just about the noise: Glass shrieks over gorgeous songs and coos over ugly ones. “Doe Deer” sounds like an audio seizure; “Baptism,” like torture on the dance floor; “Celestica, ” even-mannered dancepop. “Vietnam” is violent tremor with broken samples of Glass that float and then explode. Sometimes Glass is the front woman, other times she plays backup to the stabbing synth lines and spastic beats. Either way, it works. It’s punk for the video-game generation; dance music for the ADD set.