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Crystal Castles

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Crystal Castles
Crystal Castles live in Oslo, 2010 L1020329 (4796879783).jpg
Crystal Castles performing in Oslo in 2010
Background information
OriginToronto, Ontario, Canada
Years active2006–present
Past members

Crystal Castles is a Canadian electronic music group formed in 2006 in Toronto, Ontario, by songwriter-producer Ethan Kath and singer-songwriter Alice Glass. The current band members are Ethan Kath and Edith Frances. Crystal Castles are 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.

Producer Kath and vocalist Glass first collaborated in 2006 on the track "Alice Practice", a proof-of-concept which was initially shelved for six months. After being posted online, this track garnered attention and the duo decided to re-form for a formal release.[6] In 2006 the group released their first physical four-track EP Alice Practice on vinyl.[7][8][9] Their debut album, Crystal Castles, was released in 2008. In 2009, it was listed on NME's "Top 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade" list at No. 39.[10]

In 2010, their second album, titled (II), charted on the Billboard 200, and includes their first worldwide charting single, "Not In Love", featuring vocalist Robert Smith of The Cure. Their third album, (III), was released on November 12, 2012, and was the number one album of 2012 on Tumblr and Hype Machine. The album included four singles: "Plague", "Wrath of God", "Sad Eyes" and "Affection".

Glass announced her departure from the band in October 2014, citing personal and professional reasons.[11] In April 2015, a new Crystal Castles track, "Frail", was released featuring new vocalist Edith Frances.[12] August 19, 2016, marked the release of their fourth and most-recent album, Amnesty (I).[13]


2006–2009: Formation and debut album

Ethan Kath met Alice Glass in Toronto, Ontario,[14] and asked her to record vocals over tracks he had been working on since 2003.[15][permanent dead link] This resulted in the track "Alice Practice", which was initially shelved for six months but garnered much attention when finally posted online. The pair then decided to formally become a group, picking stage names together, with the name 'Crystal Castles' pulled from a line in the cartoon She-Ra: Princess of Power: "The fate of the world is safe in Crystal Castles."[16][17] Alice Practice became the band's first limited vinyl release in 2006.[14]

Several limited-edition 7-inch vinyl singles followed in 2006 and 2007 on various independent labels, including two on London's Trouble Records. In February 2008, Kath said his aim was to "...make the most annoying sounds ever [for Alice to] scream over and then we’ll try to open for Melt Banana".[18] Later in the year, Lies Records collected most of the vinyl singles and released them on CD and 12-inch vinyl, along with many previously unreleased tracks and three songs recorded for the collection which made their debut album.[citation needed] As Kath had declared, some of the tracks, including "XXZXCUZX ME", were deliberately designed to be grating. This eponymous debut album was included in NME's "Top 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade" list at number 39.[10]

2010–2011: Crystal Castles (II)

The group's second album, released variously as Crystal Castles, Crystal Castles (II), and simply (II), was released on May 24, 2010. In April 2010, an early mix of the album leaked, prompting the label to release prior to the originally-planned date of June. The album was moderately successful charting in the UK at number 48, the US at number 188 and number 25 in Australia.

The first two singles were "Celestica" and "Baptism". The third single, "Not in Love" featuring Robert Smith from The Cure, became the band's highest-charting single at that time. Crystal Castles headlined the Shockwaves NME Awards Tour 2011 in the United Kingdom while singer Alice Glass suffered from a broken ankle.[19]

2012–2014: Crystal Castles (III) and Alice Glass's departure

In March 2012, Crystal Castles announced their relocation to Warsaw, Poland, to begin recording their third album. A fan's video of the band's June 9 performance at Parklife 2012 was uploaded to YouTube, boasting the first appearance of new song "Plague",[20] which was released as the album's first single on July 25. On September 26, the band released second single "Wrath of God". The album (III) was released on November 7.[21] "Sad Eyes" was the album's third single, released January 2013. "Affection" was released as the fourth single in April 2013. A planned fifth single, "Telepath", did not materialize.[22]

In October 2014, via a Facebook post, Alice Glass announced that she was leaving Crystal Castles, that the band was finished, and that she intended to pursue a solo career.[23] Crystal Castles' manager assured fans that the band would continue without her.[24] Three years later, in October 2017, on her official website, Glass accused Kath of sexual, physical and mental abuse in explanation of her departure from the band. The accusations detail events starting when Glass was 15 and began recording with Kath, and escalated until her eventual departure from Crystal Castles.[23][25] Kath publicly denied the allegations.[26]

2015–present: Amnesty (I)

On April 16, 2015, Ethan Kath released a new Crystal Castles track, "Frail", featuring a new vocalist named Edith Frances. On July 2, 2015, another new song, "Deicide", was released.[27] Crystal Castles' first live performance with the new vocalist was on November 27 at Soundswild Festival in Johannesburg, South Africa.

On February 23–24, 2016, they played two sold out shows in London. In July 2016 they released the single Char and announced the twelve-track album Amnesty (I) set for release on August 19 through Fiction Records.[13]

In early 2016, the band was included in the announced lineup for the 79 Cents event at SXSW, a concert showcase organized by Tumblr to highlight women's income disparity. In an interview with The Verge, Glass stated her opinion that Kath wasn't a suitable person to be performing at a feminism-centric event.[28] Shortly after, the band was removed from the lineup.[29]

Musical style

Crystal Castles' musical style was described by reviewer Jack Shankly as "ferocious, asphyxiating sheets of warped two-dimensional Gameboy [sic] glitches and bruising drum bombast that pierces your skull with their sheer shrill force, burrowing deep into the brain like a fever."[30] In a 2008 review for the BBC, Sophie Hammer wrote that to listen to Crystal Castles "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 nothing would ultimately mean anything."[31]

With the release of their second album, their music became more aesthetic and more sharply focussed,[32] mixing synth pop and loud rock sounds with increasing skill.[33]

During recording of their third album, Kath decided to forgo the use of computers,[34] and ditched their old synthesizers and keyboards. They also recorded each track in one take. This gave their new recordings a significantly different sound, less practised and more original.[34]


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, the Heineken Open'er Festival 2009 in Gdynia, Poland, the Reading and Leeds Festivals in England, August 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010,[35][36][37][38][39] and they headlined a Vice magazine tour across the UK in November 2007.[40] In May 2008, Crystal Castles headlined the NME New Noise tour across the UK.[citation needed]

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.[41] Crystal Castles toured with Nine Inch Nails in three dates in August 2008.[42]

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.

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. Back in Toronto in July, Crystal Castles performed at the Sound Academy as part of the TIME Festival.[43]

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.[44]

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

On January 20, 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.[45] By 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.[46]

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[47]

Crystal Castles toured North America in the fall of 2012 with old collaborators HEALTH.[48] In the North American leg of 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.

Crystal Castles was last presented to the Colombian public in 2013 repeating the scenario of the city of Bogotá D.C. for Festival Estéreo Picnic.

Crystal Castles made their first appearance in Hong Kong at the Clockenflap Festival on November 27, 2016.


Copyright disputes

In mid-2008, Crystal Castles were involved in two controversies. Pitchfork and the Torontoist blog published stories about Crystal Castles' use of Trevor Brown's artwork without his permission. The image, depicting the singer Madonna with a black eye,[49][50] was used as the band's logo. The issue was resolved after the band bought the rights to use the image from Brown.

In one of Kath's earliest unreleased demos, he incorporated a sample without permission; years later his record label discovered the track and uploaded it to the label's MySpace page without Kath's permission, and without credit to the original sampled song.[51] 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".[51][52][53][54]

Sexual harassment and misconduct allegations

In October 2017, on her official website, Glass accused Kath of sexual, physical and mental abuse in explanation of her departure from the band. The accusations detail the abuse starting when Glass was 15 and began recording with Kath, and escalated until her eventual departure from Crystal Castles.[23][25] Kath responded the same day in a statement issued to Pitchfork through his attorney, where he called the accusations "pure fiction" and said he was consulting with his lawyers as to his legal options.[26] Kath sued Glass for defamation[55] but his suit was dismissed by the court.[56]


Present members

Former members

Touring members

  • Cameron Findlay – drums (2007–2008)
  • Thomas Cullen – drums (2008)
  • Mike Bell – drums (2008–2009)


Studio albums

List of studio albums, with selected chart positions
Title Album details Peak chart positions Sales
Crystal Castles 175 49 47
Crystal Castles (II)
  • Released: April 23, 2010
  • Label: Fiction, Lies, Last Gang
  • Formats: CD, LP, digital download
25 56 48 188
  • Released: November 7, 2012
  • Label: Fiction, Polydor
  • Formats: CD, LP, digital download
74 116 134 93 63 77
Amnesty (I)
  • Released: August 19, 2016
  • Label: Fiction, Casablanca Records
  • Formats: CD, LP, digital download
85 182 86
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Extended plays

List of extended plays
Title EP details
Alice Practice
Doe Deer
  • Released: April 17, 2010
  • Label: Fiction Records
  • Formats: 12-inch


List of singles, with selected chart positions, showing year released and album name
Title Year Peak chart positions Album




"Crimewave" 2007 17 Crystal Castles
"Air War"
"Courtship Dating" 2008
"Celestica" 2010 Crystal Castles II
"Baptism" 103
"Not in Love"
(featuring Robert Smith)
91 53 43 18 31 18 54 24 19
"Plague" 2012 III
"Wrath of God"
"Frail" 2015 Amnesty (I)
"Deicide" Non-album single
"Concrete" 2016 Amnesty (I)
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Other charting songs

List of other charting songs, with selected chart positions, showing year released and album name
Title Year Peak chart positions Album


"Empathy" 2010 43 Crystal Castles II
"Suffocation" 2012 49
"Sad Eyes" 2013 139 III
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.


Music videos

Year Title Director
2007 "Crimewave" The Beta Movement
"Air War" Mitch Stratton
2008 "Magic Spells" Video Marsh
"Courtship Dating" Marc Pannozzo
"Crimewave" BBC
"Knights" Jo Marini
2010 "Celestica" Rob Hawkins
2012 "Suffocation" Ethan Kath
"Plague" Ivan Grbin
2013 "Sad Eyes" Rob Hawkins, Marc Pannozzo
"Affection" Stephen Agnew
"Affection (hugsnotdrugs edit)" Ethan Kath, Alice Glass
2016 "Concrete" Ethan Kath<


Crystal Castles won the John Peel Award for Innovation at the Shockwaves NME Awards 2011.[67]


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External links