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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 is an electronica band with a sound that mixes chiptune, electropunk, synthpop, and witch house. The band was started in the mid-2000s and began gaining traction after the online success of their song "Alice Practice" (initially made as a soundcheck/proof-of-concept).

The band was initially made up of singer Alice Glass and songwriter/producer Ethan Kath before Glass announced her departure from the group on October 8th, 2014note , embarking on a solo career.

The language exchanged between the two around this time implied a less-than-amicable split made even grimmer by the fact that in October 2017, Glass publicly claimed that she suffered sexual, emotional, and mental abuse from Kath. While he staunchly denied these allegations and sued her for defamation, his case was eventually dismissed.


On April 16th, 2015, Kath released a new song under the CC name called "Frail" with vocals done by a new singer named Edith Frances, who would then become Alice's replacement.

They cause quite a bit of ruckus with their live shows, and often make good use of strobe lights and whatever unfortunate soul is working security. With anything they do, the reaction is always divisive, though their fanbase cherishes them lovingly. Their influences include murder, blank looks on girls, and knives.

They were the subject of some controversy 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 have released four studio albums thus far. They have also released nine singles: "Crimewave (Crystal Castles vs. HEALTH)," "Air War," "Vanished," "Courtship Dating," "Celestica," "Baptism," "Not in Love (ft. Robert Smith)," "Wrath of God," and "Plague".

They were unrelated to the Atari Arcade Game.


Alice Glass era (2006-2014)

Edith Frances era (2015-)

  • Amnesty (I) (2016)


  • Affectionate Nickname: Alice addresses 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. 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.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language:
  • I Ain't Got Time to Bleed / Made of Iron: Alice cannot be killed by conventional weapons. She's been kicked in the head by riot police, mobbed in Spain, broken her ankle onstage and performed five months' worth of shows on crutches. Actually, considering their live shows, it's amazing she doesn't get injured more often. And Now You Know why Ethan stays in the back.
  • 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: Their bouncy, call-and-response single "Courtship Dating" is about human taxidermy.
    • 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.
  • Multicolored Hair: Alice Glass is a natural blonde. Formerly black, her hair now cycles through pastel colors.
    "I’m a natural blonde, but that 'blonde hair, big tits' idea of what men want, it’s now really unfeminine."
  • 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".
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Recently, Alice has decided to dye her hair a light shade of purple.


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