Avid fans of Crystal Castles know her name and listeners who are familiar with their antics may recall the distinctive vocals and powerful performances of Alice Glass. She was a crucial part of Castles’ sonics and aesthetic; a dark, primal force that embodied female empowerment.
After the less than acrimonious split, Glass delivered a zinger of a track, “Stillbirth”. It was a visceral, noisy experience that gut-punched from the get-go. Quickly, there were whispers of a debut album arriving soon after and now, two years later we have her debut EP, aptly titled Alice Glass.
It’s clear this EP is a statement of intent and a clear indication of the sound Glass is going for. Overall the EP’s sound is a colossal unleashing of emotion, there are waves of aggression and sadness. This is Glass purging her struggles whilst also demonstrating she is more than capable to survive and succeed as a solo act.
Crystal Castles has moved on and it’s apparent she has too, both exploring different sound palettes. What’s important about this EP, is it’s a clear sign that Glass has more up here sleeve. This is her taking control, whereas before, she had none. From the beginning of the lead single “Without Love“, Glass is marking her territory and doing it with defiance.
“Without Love” is a twisted take on electro pop. Its sound has been compared to Purity Ring and while the similarity is noticeable, it doesn’t take away the song’s merit. The track itself is monumental in scope comprising of two components; a lavish, warped instrumental and a powerful chorus that’s ridiculously catchy.
You can’t escape the haunting ‘wah’ sounds or the booming bass, it’s glorious. The EP’s overall sound is dark electro pop with sprinkles of witch house sitting upon an underbelly of gothic textures (think the spooky aggressiveness of early Marilyn Manson).
As mentioned, there’s a gothic element which really shines through on “Forgiveness“. Morbid lyricism meets a club song. Its vibe reflects 90s club music. For reference, picture the rave scene in Blade 1, this song would fit that scene perfectly. It has that pulsating synth, capturing an urgency and a sense of danger. The bass tempo hits just like a club anthem should. It’s relentlessly catchy.
Whilst Glass is carving out her own sound on this EP, she throws back to her roots with a Castles-esque track. “Natural Selection” is a slice of that raw, primal nature Glass encapsulated during her era. Instrumentally it’s disjointed and jarring, the sounds stutter and surge, searing the eardrums.
It’s an uncomfortable listening experience, which is purposeful. Vocally, it’s fairly straight-forward except for some wails and shrieks. “Natural Selection” is Glass seemingly letting out all her rage and while it works, it brings the EP to a grinding halt which is detrimental when it’s only six tracks long. It’d be better suited on a longer project.
Despite the momentary slow down, things speed up with “White Lies” and “Blood Oath“. The former echoes TaTu, with lush vocal melodies and Eastern European sounding synths. Again, this song is made for the dance floor during a full moon. It begins with a 1-2 rhythm accompanied by soft vocals before meeting a ricochet of screeching vocals, which leads to a soft yet punchy chorus.
Glass sounds empowered, especially during the chorus where the instrumental switches up and her vocals rise above the chaos below. The vocals are strong and although they’re more clear and prominent than anything in the past, there’s still a splash of reverb and distortion.
The fury continues with “Blood Oath”. This is the anthem for when the gates of Hell open. Synthesisers gurgle and bubble as the beat thumps. The instrumental mirrors a possession and it’s gleefully dark and doomed. Once the bass kicks alongside Glass’ speed-ball chorus, you’ll immediately want to dance with the Devil. Rest assured, “Blood Oath” captures the witch house vibes whilst also being a metamorphism of Glass’ virulent roots.
The EP comes to a close with “The Altar“, a slow burning track. It’s the sun shining after a terrible thunderstorm or in this case, a slasher film. Smooth vocals lay atop a simmering synth line. Glass’ vocals are innocent and vulnerable, it’s a mellow trip compared to what lays before it.
Overall the EP ends on a high note, “The Altar” is a perfect closer. The EP’s run-time is short enough that you can listen over and over again. Although it’s short in length, it’s a vicious journey from beginning to end, and honestly it’s an aural battering. Every song is emotionally charged and because of that it’s heavy.
As an entire project it can be draining and overbearing. If you can withstand bombastic, chaotic instrumentals (think the more recent HEALTH record) on repeat then this EP is for you. Even if you can only handle so much darkness and raw emotion, every track works as a single offering, there’s no disconnect or feeling of separation (apart from “The Altar”).
Alice Glass’ music is the sonic embodiment of Lilith, the queen of the damned and if you want to dance with the creatures of the night, underneath vibrant strobe lights, then sell your soul and dance the pain away.
The new self-titled Alice Glass EP is out now via Loma Vista Recordings, purchase it on iTunes here.
Words by Jake Gould