Crystal Castles are an experimental electronic band formed in 2003 in Toronto, Ontario by songwriter/producer Ethan Kath. 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.
In 2005 Ethan Kath released the digital singles "Magic Spells" and "Untrust Us" under the moniker Crystal Castles. As they grew popular online he began receiving offers from record labels. In 2006 Kath recruited vocalist Alice Glass for the band's first physical four-track EP "Alice Practice" which was released on vinyl. 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. 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 1 album of 2012 on Tumblr and also on Hype Machine. The album included 4 singles: "Plague", "Wrath of God", "Sad Eyes" and "Affection". Glass announced her departure from the band in October 2014, citing personal and professional reasons. In April 2015, Ethan Kath released a new Crystal Castles track, "Frail", featuring a new singer, Edith Frances. In August 19, 2016 their fourth album, Amnesty (I), was released.
2003–09: Formation and debut album
In 2005 the Ethan Kath songs "Magic Spells" and "Untrust Us" grew popular online, and he began receiving offers from record labels. He named the project Crystal Castles after a line from the cartoon She-Ra that stated "The fate of the world is safe in Crystal Castles." Ethan Kath then met Alice Glass in Toronto and asked her to record vocals over tracks he had been working on since 2003. Alice Practice became the band's first limited vinyl release in 2006. 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.
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". Later in the year 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. This eponymous debut album was included in NME's "Top 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade" list at number 39.
2010–13: Crystal Castles (II) and (III)
The band's second album, officially titled "(II)",(but also known as Crystal Castles (II)), was released on May 24, 2010. 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 first 2 singles were "Celestica" and "Baptism". The 3rd single "Not in Love", featuring Robert Smith from The Cure, became 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.
In March 2012, Crystal Castles announced their relocation to Warsaw 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", which weeks later was released as the album's 1st single on July 25. On September 26, the band released 2nd single "Wrath of God" The album (III) was released on November 7. "Sad Eyes" was the album's 3rd single, released January 2013. "Affection" was released as the 4th single April 2013. The band's U.S. label promised a 5th single, "Telepath", for a late 2013 release but this did not materialize due to the label having lost touch with the band members.
2014: Alice Glass' Departure
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."
Crystal Castles' manager immediately reported that the band would continue.
2015–present: Amnesty (I)
On 16 April 2015, Ethan Kath released a new Crystal Castles track, "Frail", featuring a new vocalist named Edith Frances. On 2 July 2015, another new song, "Deicide", was released. Crystal Castles' first live performance with the new vocalist was on November 27 at Soundswild Festival in Johannesburg, South Africa. Just before the show the band posted on Facebook with an image of Kath & new vocalist commenting 'Edith Frances 1st show 1st time on stage, let's show her luv xoxo'.
On 23–24 February 2016 they played two sold out shows in London, the Daily Mirror tabloid wrote a review stating that "Alice Glass was in many ways the face of Crystal Castles, with Ethan seeming like the creative spark - but it doesn't look like their live shows, at least, will suffer without Alice". 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.
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." 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."
With the release of their second album, their music made a "shift toward beauty and clarity," 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."
During recording of their third album Ethan Kath adopted a "strictly no computers rule," 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" 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."
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 and also headlined a Vice magazine tour across the UK in November 2007.
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. Crystal Castles toured with Nine Inch Nails in three dates in August 2008.
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.
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 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.
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. 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.
Crystal Castles headlined at Moogfest in Asheville, North Carolina on October 29, 2011.
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
Crystal Castles toured North America in the fall of 2012 with old collaborators HEALTH. 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. recognized nationally and internationally as it has been visited by major world artists from different musical genres.
In mid-2008, Crystal Castles were involved in two controversies. Pitchfork Media and the Torontoist blog published stories about Crystal Castles' use of Trevor Brown's artwork without his permission, although the band later provided screenshots of an email exchange where permission had in fact been given. The image, depicting the singer Madonna with a black eye, 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. 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."
Ethan Kath – instruments, songwriter, production, vocals (2003–present)
Edith Frances – vocals (2015–present)
Christopher Chartrand – drums (2006–present)
Alice Glass – vocals, songwriter (2006-2014)
Cameron Findlay – live drums (2007–2008)
Thomas Cullen – live drums (February 2008)
Mike Bell – live drums (2008–2009)
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