Crystal Castles are back on the electro-pop scene with their first release in four years. As abrasive as it is mesmerizing, Amnesty (I) is a new take on the definitive sound of their previous albums. Clocking in at just over 30 minutes, Amnesty (I) is still an intense listen. Experimental production techniques on the part of front-man and producer Ethan Kath provide a dark and unique pop-listening experience.

Distorted synth, 8-bit arpeggiation, and the ethereal wails of new front-woman Edith Frances drench the whole album. Since replacing Alice Glass in 2014, Frances has toured as the other half of Crystal Castles’ 2-piece core. The new album hints at Glass’s strained split from the band, grinding along like an old machine getting used to new replacement parts.

The "Amnesty (I)" Cover.
The “Amnesty (I)” Cover.

The album opens with a ghostly chorus, followed by disjointed electronic beats, setting the tone for the later tracks. The intro precedes more fleshed-out songs with classic arpeggiation and wobbly arcade melodies that Castles is known for. Edith’s voice calls to the listener like a soul trapped somewhere between this world and a darker, parallel universe. The heavily distorted synths, and washed-out, distant vocals hint at the difficulties of the schism and the ensuing turmoil of the former duo. “Char” and “Chloroform” are the most accessible songs, while experimental production compromises most of the album’s radio-friendliness. While most of the tracks are fairly linear and danceable, Kath has taken more liberty with drum variations, giving the whole album a more organic, analog sound than a typical electronic beat would produce.

Check out the official video for “Concrete:”

Ultimately, Frances fills the role of Glass, but she doesn’t add anything stylistically unique to the existing Castles sound. Instrumentals characterize most of Amnesty (I). While this is probably a relief for most, future releases may strive to push Frances’s individual style. As Frances and Kath continue to forge the future of Crystal Castles, we can look forward to refreshingly experimental dark pop music.

Listen to the entire album now: