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Music / Crystal Castles

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Alice Glass and Ethan Kath

we are crystal castles
we are 1 boy and 1 girl
we are named after She-Ra's home
we play rough

Crystal Castles was a Canadian electronica band formed in 2006, known for their dark, melancholic aesthetic and a unique sound that started out as chiptune/electropunk-influenced synthpop before transitioning into futuristic and industrial territory that would become most synonymous with the genre of witch house.

Started by singer Alice Glass and songwriter/producer Ethan Kath, Crystal Castles began gaining traction off the success of their song "Alice Practice" both through MySpace and a sizable Colbert Bump following them performing the song in an episode of Skins.note  From there, they grew a reputation for their extremely chaotic live shows, the consistent divisive responses to their work, and the enduring passion of their fanbase. Their influences around this time included murder, blank looks on girls, and knives.


On October 8, 2014, Alice announced her departure from Crystal Castles, later embarking on a solo career the following year. The language exchanged between her and Ethan afterwards implied a less-than-amicable split. On April 16, 2015, Kath released a new song under the Crystal Castles name titled "Frail" with vocals done by a new singer named Edith Frances, who would then become Alice's replacement. This pairing would release a new album, Amnesty (I), in August 2016; although they announced they were working on an Amnesty (II) nine months later, the band has not released any music since.

In October 2017, Alice published a statement claiming that she suffered sexual, emotional, physical and mental abuse from Ethan from when she first began recording with him at the age of 15. Ethan publicly denied the allegations and sued her for defamation, but the suit was dismissed in 2018. The band cancelled remaining tour dates that were planned at the time, and no further updates on the band have been provided.


Other public disputes the band found themselves in occurred in 2008, when they were accused of violating Creative Commons licenses by stealing artwork and samples from other artists, specifically a drum sample by Lo-Bat which featured on Insectica and the usage of a black-eyed Madonna as an album cover. These issues were seemingly resolved when they retitled Insectica to 'Crystal Castles vs Lo-Bat', and it soon became apparent that the artist who created the Madonna image was prolonging hostilities as he was benefiting from the exposure — Crystal Castles tried to pay him for the image but he refused to provide them with the necessary details.

They are unrelated to the Atari Arcade Game.

Discography with singles:

Alice Glass era (2006-2014)

  • Crystal Castles (2008)
    • "Crimewave (Crystal Castles vs. HEALTH)"
    • "Air War"
    • "Vanished"
    • "Courtship Dating"
  • Crystal Castles II (2010)
  • III (2012)
    • "Wrath of God"
    • "Plague"

Edith Frances era (2015-)

  • Amnesty (I) (2016)


  • Affectionate Nickname: Alice's version of it, anyway; she once noted that she addressed her bandmate as Ethan Catheter, because he's "the most uncomfortable thing in the world."
  • Angrish: Sometimes it's distortion, but the lyrics can dissolve into this occasionally. Definitely happens live, though.
  • Careful with That Axe: Alice's feral, nigh-inaudibly distorted screeches in "Doe Deer".
  • Chronological Album Title
  • Companion Cube: Alice and the amp are legally married in some states.
    • Sometimes she kneels down and humps the mic instead.
  • Cover Version: Although the studio version of "Crimewave" is technically a remix of the HEALTH song, they often perform it live as one.
  • Darker and Edgier: II and III zig-zag this; their heaviest moments are definitely more aggressive than their preceding albums, but they also have their fair share of Lighter and Softer moments.
  • Downer Ending: The debut album ends with "Tell Me What to Swallow", an acoustic song from the perspective of the victim in an abusive relationship who chooses to stay.
  • Driven to Suicide: The narrator in "Suffocation" seems as if they definitely have been.
  • Film the Hand: Kath is routinely photographed wearing hoodies which obscure some or all of his face, and covering it with his hand even further. Alice picked up on this habit, and will now cover her face with her sleeve/collar/beer/whatever's handy, even when posing with fans.
  • Free Handed Performer: Alice Glass performed as the singer while Ethan Kath managed the production. The same formula was applied on stage, even after Alice left and got replaced by Edith Frances.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language:
  • I Am the Band: Alice's star is on the rise. Ethan, not so much. He's had no compunctions about venting his anger over her departure through Twitter.
  • Improbable Weapon User: One time Alice clobbered a fan with a microphone. The reason is a mystery, but it probably had to do with shows like this.
  • Intercourse with You: "Through the Hosiery":
    Feel so good, you said it before.
    To your feet, you fall to the floor.
    Deep inside, you still want more.
    Deal or not, you look to the door.
  • Last Note Nightmare: "Untrust Us" is a rather soft (albeit crazy) song, which ends with the abrupt wailing of a guitar (which is sampled from the same song that provides the song's main sample).
  • Long Title: There's a demo floating around the Internet called "Why Do You Cry Every Time I Fuck You?"
  • Loudness War: They have a habit of distorting their music (and vocals) to hell and back.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Crystal Castles' music in general tend to fit under this. A lot of it sounds fairly upbeat and danceable, but the lyrics on the other hand... but a lot of time it's hard to make out what Alice is even saying anyway due to the delibrate audio distortion.
  • Mad Artist: What happens when you hand Linda Blair a drum machine.
  • New Sound Album: Amnesty (I) shifts more towards a conventional dance sound, at times sounding EDM-esque.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: CC's lyrics constantly reference sexually transmitted diseases, abortions, injury, mutilation, and corruption of innocence. They said in an interview before that they wanted to make an album that would "simultaneously make everyone vomit at once" but they seriously take it up to eleven.
  • Noodle Implements: Ethan remains coy when discussing their sound engineering. He once claimed to smoosh a cake into his soundboard to achieve a desired noise.
  • Non-Appearing Title: Almost all of their songs.
  • Non-Indicative Name: One of their most beautiful and laidback songs is called "Child I Will Hurt You".
  • One-Woman Wail: "Tell Me What to Swallow".
  • Perishing Alt-Rock Voice: Alice does this in "Celestica".
  • Performance Video: A cross between this and Surreal Music Video for "Baptism," their second single.
  • Rearrange the Song: "Deicide" is essentially a stripped-down, unfinished version of "Their Kindness Is Charade".
  • Religion Rant Song: "Baptism".
    Hold my head under the water
    Take a breath for the Father
    Learn to love, lessons repeating
    The chronicles are so misleading
  • Sampling:
    • "Untrust Us" is built around the opening text-to-speech sample of Death from Above 1979's "Dead Womb", and ends with the first two-and-a-quarter bars of the song as an abrupt Last Note Nightmare.
    • "Year of Silence" is built around the bridge of Sigur Rós' "Inni mer syngur vitleysingur".
    • "Magic Spells" takes elements from the title track of Grandmaster Flash's The Message.
  • Self-Titled Album: The first two of their albums, and even then then the third one is just entitled (III).
  • Shout-Out: Although their name is taken from She-Ra, they've never actually seen an episode.
    Alice: (supportively) I hear it's good though.
    Ethan: I hear it's bad.
  • The Silent Bob: Ethan used to front his own garage rock outfit. Now he looks positively milquetoast next to his frontwoman. (He's actually more talkative than his stage persona would lead you to believe.)
  • Single Stanza Song: A number of their songs are based around the repetition of a single set of lyrics.
    • In "Doe Deer", Alice just screeches "Deathray!" over and over.
  • Spelling Song: "Mother Knows Best". H-E-R-P-E-S.
  • Spiteful Spit: According to Kath, Alice (back when she sang with the riot grrrl band) used to spit beer at hecklers from the stage. Nowadays, she can sometimes be spotted taking a swig of Jack and then raining it back onto the crowd, though it's done with affection.
  • Stage Name: Alice's real name is Margaret Osborn, and Ethan's is Claudio Paolo Palmieri.
  • Starmaking Role: Their appearance on Skins boosted their publicity a lot.
  • Studio Chatter: In the middle of "Love and Caring", you can clearly hear Alice snap, "What the fuck is this? Oh, it's the bass."
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song:
    • "Tell Me What to Swallow" is the calmest song on the debut album, but also the saddest.
    • "Violent Dreams" is by far the softest song on (II), running on lush synth washes and forlorn, distorted vocals.
    • "Child I Will Hurt You", the final track on III, is a full-on ambient piece.
  • Textless Album Cover: All 4 of their albums.
  • Word Salad Lyrics:
    • Their first hit in Britain, "Alice Practice", was Kath recording Glass uttering nonsense into a microphone over a drum loop.
    • "Air War", which samples Ulysses by James Joyce.
    Bronze by gold heard the hoofrons,
    steelyringing imperthnthn thnthnthn.
    Chips, picking chips off rocky thumbnail, chips.
    Horrid! And gold flushed more.
  • Would Hurt a Child: One interpretation of Violent Youth is that of the song's narrator being powerless to save a child being poisoned by her parents.
    • One song is called "Child I Will Hurt You".
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: "xxzxcuzx me".