Every Tuesday, Torontoist scours record store shelves in search of the city’s most notable new releases and brings you the best—or sometimes just the biggest—of what we’ve heard in Sound Advice.
It’d be simple to say that Toronto’s game-making dance heathens have done it again, but the new self-titled (yes, the debut was also self titled) album from Crystal Castles is somewhat of a first. Unofficially dubbed II, it’s a giant improvement for a duo that has previously only really been consistent in controversy; the defining, if not patchy, collection of aggressive 8-bit bangers that made up the first album forms the basis of darker, thicker, more progressive layers of Ethan Kath’s hypnotic electronics for frontgirl Alice Glass to get fatal all over.
The album leaked—of course—and Fiction Records rushed II into an early online release late last week to compensate. It starts terrifyingly, with the claustrophobic “Fainting Spells,” and quickly turns mesmerizing with first single “Celestica,” a whispered, vulnerable trance with a hidden cold shoulder. The two immediately culminate in standout “Doe Deer” (streaming above): a balls-out thrash of skronking digibeats that summons Glass’ very best punk heroine as much as it does Linda Blair in the Exorcist, and it’s near impossible to discern how much of it, if any, is electronic manipulation. A too-abrupt taste of that musical apocalypse only lurks under the rest of the album; the menacing “Empathy” creates the soundtrack to your silent breakdown, and the Sigur Ros-sampling “Year of Silence” channels the voices in your head that caused it.
To think sounds this subtle could come from the reckless brass of Crystal Castles is both impressive and, actually, sort of shocking. II could (and should) be the mark that makes Canada care, and if not, well, Alice and Ethan don’t either.