Crystal Castles (band)

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Crystal Castles
Crystal Castles Popped Music Festival.jpg
Crystal Castles at the Popped! Music Festival, June 2008
Background information
Origin Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Genres Electronic, synthpunk,[1] synthpop[2]
Years active 2003–2014
Labels Lies, Last Gang, Fiction
Past members

Crystal Castles was an experimental electronic band formed in 2003 in Toronto consisting of songwriter/producer Ethan Kath and formerly of vocalist Alice Glass. The duo was known for their chaotic live shows and lo-fi melancholic homemade productions. They released many limited vinyl singles between 2006 and 2007 before releasing a trilogy of critically acclaimed albums between 2008 and 2012.

In 2006, their first single/EP "Alice Practice" was released on vinyl and was limited to 500 copies, which sold out in 3 days. Their debut album, Crystal Castles, was released in 2008 and was listed on NME's "Top 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade" list at No. 39.[3]

In 2010, they announced their second album, titled (II). The album was their first release to chart on the Billboard Hot 100, and includes their first worldwide charting single, "Not In Love", featuring Robert Smith of The Cure. The album has received general acclaim and was placed on many 2010 top critics lists.

Their third album, (III), was released on November 12, 2012 and was the #1 album of 2012 on Tumblr and also on The Hype Machine. The album included 4 singles: "Plague", "Wrath of God", "Sad Eyes", "Affection".

Alice Glass announced her departure from the band in October 2014, citing both personal and professional reasons.[4]


Formation and debut album[edit]

Ethan Kath met Alice Glass in Toronto when she was 15.[5] He thought he had found an "undiscovered poet" after hearing her sing in her all-girl punk band Fetus Fatale. Kath asked her to record vocals over tracks he had been working on since 2003.[6] After writing lyrics for 5 tracks, she went to a studio to record them, where an engineer secretly recorded her soundcheck.[5] Kath discovered the secret soundcheck recording, named it "Alice Practice," and uploaded it online under the band name Crystal Castles, a line from the cartoon She-Ra that stated "The fate of the world is safe in the Crystal Castle."[7] In 2005 the songs "Magic Spells", "Untrust Us", and "Alice Practice" grew popular online, and he began receiving offers from record labels.[8] This news was especially shocking to Glass, having lost touch with Kath since the recording and up to that point unaware "Alice Practice" even existed.[8] The song became the band's first official release in 2006 on a limited vinyl which was released by London's Merok Records.[5] The record included tracks like "XXZXCUZX ME", which Kath states he made 'grating' on purpose. When questioned about his motives behind this move, Kath responded with "To weed out the wimps, to annoy the posers. We are saying, "We are not for you".

Several limited edition 7" vinyl singles followed in 2006 and 2007 on various independent labels, including two on London's Trouble Records.[citation needed] In 2008, Lies Records collected most of the vinyl singles and released them on CD and 12" vinyl for the first time, along with many previously unreleased tracks and 3 songs recorded just for the collection which made their debut album.[citation needed] This eponymous debut album was included in NME's "Top 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade" list at number 39.[3]

Crystal Castles (II) and (III)[edit]

Crystal Castles at Counterpoint Festival 2012

The band's second album, also self-titled (also known as Crystal Castles (II)), was released on May 24, 2010.[9] In April 2010, an early mix of the album leaked, prompting the label to release earlier than expected (original release date was June 2010). The album was moderately successful charting in the UK at number 48, the US at number 188 and number 25 in Australia.

The third single taken from the album, "Not in Love", featuring Robert Smith from The Cure, is currently the band's highest charting single to date. Crystal Castles headlined the Shockwaves NME Awards Tour 2011 in the United Kingdom while singer Alice Glass suffered from a broken ankle.[10]

In March 2012, Crystal Castles announced their relocation to Warsaw to begin recording their third album. On June 14, 2012, a self-shot video of Crystal Castles' June 9 performance at Parklife 2012 was uploaded to YouTube, boasting a then-untitled new, unreleased song.[11][12] Over the following weeks, the song's name was revealed to be "Plague" and was released on July 25 as a single, via Crystal Castles' SoundCloud page.[11] On September 26, the duo released "Wrath of God" as the album's second single. On the same day, the duo stated that the album would be released on November 5, a date that was later pushed back to November 12.[13] The official cover art of the album was posted on the band's Facebook page.[14] On October 9, the band revealed the official track listing on their Facebook. The album was released on iTunes on November 7, five days earlier than the anticipated release date.[14][15][16] "Affection" was released as the album's third single on October 31, 2012.[17]

Alice Glass' Departure[edit]

In October 2014, via a Facebook post, Alice Glass announced she was leaving Crystal Castles. The statement read:

"My art and my self-expression in any form has always been an attempt towards sincerity, honesty, and empathy for others. For a multitude of reasons both professional and personal I no longer feel that this is possible within Crystal Castles. Although this is the end of the band, I hope my fans will embrace me as a solo artist in the same way they have embraced Crystal Castles." [18]

Musical style[edit]

Crystal Castles' musical style has been described as "ferocious, asphyxiating sheets of warped two-dimensional Gameboy glitches and bruising drum bombast that pierces your skull with their sheer shrill force, burrowing deep into the brain like a fever."[19] To listen to Crystal Castles, according to the BBC, "is to be cast adrift in a vortex of deafening pain without a safety net. You get the feeling you could do anything in the world, but that 'anything' would ultimately mean nothing."[20]

With the release of their second album, their music made a "shift toward beauty and clarity,"[21] finding "different ways to mix icy synth pop with white-hot noise, as well as present them in an ever so slightly more polished form."[22]

During recording of their third album Ethan Kath adopted a "strictly no computers rule,"[23] and ditched their old synthesizers and keyboards. Of this decision Ethan revealed Crystal Castles wanted "the new album to sound like a completely different and new experience"[23] and revealed that they had limited themselves to one take per song because they believed "the first take is the rawest expression of an idea."[23]


Crystal Castles performing at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival 2009.

Crystal Castles have headlined numerous tours in the U.S., Europe, Japan, and Australia. They have played many festivals including Ireland's 2009 and 2011 Oxegen Festival, All Points West Festival 2009 in New Jersey, Coachella Valley and Music Festival 2009 and 2011 in Indio, California, as well as the Heineken Open'er Festival 2009 in Gdynia, Poland and the Reading and Leeds Festivals in England, August 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010[24][25][26][27][28] and also headlined a Vice magazine tour across the UK in November 2007.[29]

In May 2008, Crystal Castles headlined the NME New Noise tour across the UK.

Crystal Castles performed at the Glastonbury Festival in June 2008, where the on-stage antics of Glass which included her climbing the stage rigging and constantly stage-diving, led to the organisers curtailing their set.[30] Crystal Castles toured with Nine Inch Nails in three dates in August 2008.[31]

Crystal Castles also played various European summer festivals including England's Reading and Leeds Festivals. They were expected to return to the UK in September 2008 for a headlining tour but dates were moved forward due to recording commitments. The band also played Connect 2008 and in October they played at the Iceland Airwaves festival. Over Halloween they played a gig in LA that involved Alice Glass wrecking the drum kit.[32]

They supported Blur on the first of two comeback shows in Hyde Park, London in July 2009. They also performed at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee Friday June 12, 2009.

Crystal Castles also played the NME stage of Reading and Leeds Festival 2010, the Obelisk Arena of Latitude Festival 2010, Glastonbury 2010, RockNess 2010, Pohoda Festival in Trenčín, Slovakia, Exit Festival in Novi Sad, Serbia, Emmabodafestivalen in Emmaboda, Sweden, In New Music We Trust stage at the Radio 1 One Big Weekend in Bangor, North Wales May 2010 and Estrella Levante SOS 4.8 (May, 2010) in Murcia, Spain. Crystal Castles did a Full-Length UK tour in November 2010.

Crystal Castles in Helsinki, Finland, in June 2011.

Crystal Castles headlined Hard Festival 2010, a summer tour to Oakland, LA State Park, Denver, Austin, Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington DC, New York, Baltimore and Finland.[33]

Crystal Castles performed at Australia's Big Day Out festival in 2011 and Bestival 2011, alongside The Cure whose vocalist Robert Smith contributed to Crystal Castles new version of "Not in Love."

Crystal Castles also took part in the NME Awards Tour in February 2011, alongside bands Magnetic Man, Everything Everything and The Vaccines.

On 20 January 2011, Alice put strain on a previous foot injury (during a Spanish show in November 2010) in Tokyo, causing her ankle to break. The injury forced Alice to perform some shows on crutches.[34] As of May 12, at the Fluxx in San Diego, CA, Alice was seen fully recovered from the previous ankle injury.

Crystal Castles were a headliner at the 2011 Ultra Music Festival, March 25–27 in Miami, FL. They were also headlining at the Danish music festival NorthSide Festival in Aarhus June 11–12. Crystal Castles also performed on the last night of Oxegen 2011 in Ireland at the Heineken Green Spheres Stage.[35]

Crystal Castles headlined at Moogfest in Asheville, North Carolina on October 29, 2011.[citation needed]

The band performed on the Main Stage of Reading and Leeds Festival 2012. They also appeared at Electric Picnic 2012 in Ireland and The Parklife Weekender in Manchester. On July 16, 2012, they were announced to be returning to Australia to play the Big Day Out in January 2013[36]

Crystal Castles toured North America in the fall of 2012 with old collaborators Health.[37] In the North American leg of the The Delta Machine Tour with Depeche Mode, the group performed as the opening act in Phoenix, Los Angeles, Mountain View, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Dallas, and Houston.

Copyright disputes[edit]

In mid-2008, Crystal Castles were involved in two controversies related to artwork permissions and samples in their earliest unreleased songs. Pitchfork Media and the Torontoist blog published stories about Crystal Castles' use of Trevor Brown's artwork without his permission. The image, depicting a black-eyed Madonna,[38][39] was used by the band on merchandise. The issue was resolved after the band bought the rights to use the image from Brown.[40]

In one of Kath's earliest, unreleased demos, he incorporated a sample without permission; the track was uploaded on the MySpace page of the label, Lies Records, without credit to the original sampled song.[41] The track, "Insectica (CC vs Lo-Bat Version)", uses clips chopped out of a song by Lo-bat called "My Little Droid Needs a Hand", released under a Creative Commons license. Another track called "Love and Caring", samples the kick and snare from Covox's "Sunday."[41][42][43][44]


Additional live members
  • Christopher Chartrand – drums (2006, 2008–2014)
  • Cameron Findlay – drums (2007–2008)
  • Thomas Cullen – drums (February 2008)
  • Mike Bell – drums (2008–2009)


Studio albums[edit]

Year Album UK US US Dance AUS Record Label
2008 (I) 47 - 6 - Last Gang
2010 (II) 48 188 6 25 Fiction / Last Gang
2012 (III) 63 77 2 74 Fiction / Last Gang


Year Title Peak chart positions Album

2006 "Alice Practice" -- -- -- -- -- -- (I)
2007 "Crimewave" -- -- -- -- -- 17
2008 "Air War" -- -- -- -- -- --
"Courtship Dating" -- -- -- -- -- --
2010 "Celestica" -- -- -- -- -- -- (II)
"Baptism" -- -- -- -- 103 --
"Not in Love" (featuring Robert Smith) 18 91 43 31 54 --
2012 "Plague" -- -- -- -- -- -- (III)
"Wrath of God" -- -- -- -- -- --
"Affection" -- -- -- -- -- --
"--" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released to that country


Music videos[edit]

Year Title Director
2007 "Crimewave" The Beta Movement
"Air War" Mitch Stratton
2008 "Magic Spells" Video Marsh
"Courtship Dating" Marc Pannozzo
"Crimewave" BBC
2010 "Celestica" Rob Hawkins
2012 "Suffocation" Ethan Kath
"Plague" Ivan Grbin
2013 "Sad Eyes" Rob Hawkins, Marc Pannozzo
"Affection" Ethan Kath, Alice Glass
"Affection" Stephen Agnew


Crystal Castles won the John Peel Award for Innovation at the Shockwaves NME Awards 2011.[49]


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  2. ^ Phares, Heather. "Crystal Castles". Allmusic. Retrieved September 7, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Magazine, NME. "The Top 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade". NME. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  4. ^ Eakin, Marah (8 October 2014). "Crystal Castles Call It Quits". A.V. Club. 
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  6. ^ Paphides, Pete (2008-08-29). "Some Ting in the way the Crystal Castles move". The Times. Retrieved 2010-12-26. 
  7. ^ "Interview with MTV Backstage Pass". MTV. Retrieved 2012-11-04. 
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  14. ^ a b "/Plague video /by...". Facebook. Retrieved 2012-12-03. 
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  16. ^ "Timeline Photos". Facebook. Retrieved 2012-12-03. 
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  19. ^ Shankly, Jack. "Underage Festival: wait a minute, these people are all children!". Drowned in Sound. Retrieved 2007-09-04. 
  20. ^ Hammer, Sophie. "BBC Music". BBC. Retrieved 2008-04-18. 
  21. ^ "Pitchfork - reviews - Crystal Castles". Retrieved 2011-05-22. 
  22. ^ " - Crystal Castles (II) review". Retrieved 2011-05-22. 
  23. ^ a b c "Crystal Castles unveil new single". Retrieved 2012-09-27. 
  24. ^ Kharas, Kev. "Reading & Leeds: Lock Up / Dance line-ups re,vealed". Drowned in Sound. Retrieved 2007-09-04. 
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  26. ^ "Report: Amy Winehouse Hospitalized; Initial CMJ Bill Unveiled". Spin. Retrieved 2007-09-04. 
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  28. ^ Zeiss, John. "Fest mania: 2007 CMJ lineup coming together". Prefix magazine. Retrieved 2007-09-04. 
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  30. ^ "Crystal Castles Anger Glastonbury Staff". Retrieved 2008-07-02. 
  31. ^ Solarski, Matthew. "Crystal Castles Respond to Chip Music Controversy". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 2008-06-18. 
  32. ^ "Crystal Castles Magazine - News, Reviews and Videos". Retrieved 2011-02-21. 
  33. ^ "HARD Summer Tour 2010". Retrieved 2011-02-21. 
  34. ^ "Crystal Castles' Alice Glass Hospitalized With Broken Ankle". CHARTattack. 2011-01-21. Retrieved 2011-02-21. 
  35. ^ "Oxegen 2011 Lineup". Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  36. ^ "The Parklife Weekender". Retrieved 2012-12-03. 
  37. ^ "Crystal Castles Announce Tour With HEALTH | News". Pitchfork. 2012-07-26. Retrieved 2012-08-21. 
  38. ^ "Crystal Castles Caught Up in Artwork Controversy". Retrieved 2008-04-23. 
  39. ^ "Untrust Us". Retrieved 2008-04-23. 
  40. ^ "baby art blog : the crystal castles fiasco: CASE OVER!". Retrieved 2011-02-21. 
  41. ^ a b Thiessen, Brock (2008-05-06). "Crystal Castles Accused of Plagiarism". Retrieved 2011-02-21. 
  42. ^ "Crystal Castles' Creative Commons Controversy". 2008-05-06. Retrieved 2011-02-21. 
  43. ^ Kern, Peter. "Chiptune Music Theft Continues; Crystal Castles Abuses Creative Commons License". createdigitalmusic. Retrieved 2008-05-05. 
  44. ^ "Crystal Castles Accused Of Stealing Songs". 2008-05-06. Retrieved 2011-02-21. 
  45. ^ "Canadian Active Rock & Alt Rock Chart Archive: Alternative Rock - April 26, 2011". America's Music Charts. Retrieved May 1, 2011. 
  46. ^ "Crystal Castles feat. Robert Smith - Not In Love". Retrieved 2011-02-21. 
  47. ^ Steffen Hung. "Crystal Castles feat. Robert Smith - Not In Love". Retrieved 2011-02-21. 
  48. ^ "Crystal Castles ft. Roberth Smith - Official UK Charts". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 2014-04-14. 
  49. ^ "Crystal Castles get John Peel Award For Innovation at Shockwaves NME Awards". Retrieved 2012-09-27. 

External links[edit]