In Analogs, we’ll be taking a look at two records that share some interesting parallels to an album out that week. Whether it be an album from 50 years back that bears some quiet influence, or an under-appreciated record from last week, if you like the record in question, you’re sure to like its Analogs.
This week we’re looking at analogs to Crystal Castles’ (III). Be sure to check out our review later this week.
The Cure – Pornography
So okay, maybe this is a bit of a cop-out – The Cure are pretty much the textbook reference point for any band that’s been labeled “gothic ____” in the past 20 years. Their status as the classic forebears of gothic rock – and thus their influence on bands like Crystal Castles – might seem a bit nebulous to anybody that knows the group primarily for Disintegration or “Friday I’m In Love, but even a cursory listen to “One Hundred Years,” Pornography‘s 7-minute opening track, explains a lot. Robert Smith’s plentiful pop ambitions are nowhere to be found in this dark world, in which every track is a mammoth, obtuse construction and all the walls are painted black. Couple that with the record’s weirdly synthetic feel (courtesy of the intrusive, ever-present electronic drum sounds), and calling it a precursor to CC’s glitched-out aesthetic is already feeling a lot less off.
And okay, yeah, citing the Cure in relation to Crystal Castles is still a bit obvious for a few other reasons. But I still think its worth noting just how much more (III) recalls Pornography-era Cure and classic gothic rock than Crystal Castles’ previous efforts did. Something like “Plague” owes a ton to the popless, nightmarish atmosphere that’s conjured on “One Hundred Years” in a way that nothing on (I) or (II) – that’s how we’re referring to them now, yeah? – ever did, and “Sad Eyes” could be a rave version of the musical themes of a track like “A Short Term Effect.” Maybe even more obvious is the pressing, claustrophobic feeling that pervades both albums – in both cases this comes from a tracklist that is crowded, dense, and persistently cloudy.
White Ring – Black Earth That Made Me
With their motorik beats and dramatic layers of synths and noise all swirled together in some miasmic, Shakespearean cauldron, White Ring were initially lumped in with bands like Salem and Modern Witch in the witch house sub-genre (note: obsessively pretentious, if we’re being honest) that rose to prominence in late 2009-early 2010. But it’s their affinity for atmospheric drone and buried melodicism that makes them such an appropriate analog for Crystal Castles and for (III) in particular. Singer Kendra Malia has no qualms about using her voice to convey a sense of dread and foreboding, while also using it to cushion the darkness which seems to be seeping in through the cracks of their lone EP, Black Earth That Made Me. She shares this particular ability with Crystal Castles vocalist Alice Glass, and both of them use their voices to effectively elevate and condemn in equal measure.
The absolutely menacing opening track, “IxC999,” on Black Earth That Made Me utilizes random gunshot percussion and throbbing bass to underscore Malia’s ominous vocals and wouldn’t sound out of place on any of Crystal Castles past releases. Even with its’ almost overly-theatrical construction, the song would seem to be at home sliding alongside any track on (III). Akin to a bass and synth world-eater, White Ring’s “Hands 2 Hold You Down” bristles and roars with a tangible anxiety and aggression that has become a trademark of Crystal Castles’ releases. And as we wait for White Ring’s (hopefully) inevitable full-length debut, (III) is as likely a substitute as any record in recent memory. White Ring may have some catch up to do to reach the highs of (III), or any of Crystal Castles’ previous albums for that matter, but with such a resolute creative vision, and a remarkably similar mindset, it shouldn’t be long before we’re hearing about the bass-quakes of a Crystal Castles/White Ring tour.