Crystal Castles have always been known for their visceral and chaotic live performances that showcased their unique mix of harsh electronics with a no-fucks-given, punk sensibility. The glitch meets rave meets industrial instrumentals concocted by founding member, Ethan Kath, were intended by the band “to weed out the wimps and to annoy the posers.” But without the intensely impassioned vocal contributions and immense presence from former front woman, Alice Glass, one has to wonder what the point would be. Snarling and screaming their way across the globe, the combination of the two original members were responsible for some of the most original music and satisfying live shows of the 2000s.
On their first two records released on Last Gang records in 2008 and 2010 respectively, Crystal Castles warp synth-pop until it is almost unrecognizable through thundering industrial like drumming and the twisted sounds of a circuit-bent Atari 5200 (everyone’s favorite instrument). Both members are credited as songwriters, which is something Kath would later downplay if not outright dispute. The riot grrrl aesthetic and influence on Glass’ vocals provided the rawer side to the largely artificial instrumentals. If it weren’t for this feral exhibition to their audience, it seems doubtful that the group would have gained as much of a following or critical acclaim as they did.
In a 2014, Alice Glass announced via Facebook that she would be ending her tenure in the band and the band itself. She wrote “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.” Fans were undoubtedly concerned and took the to the internet to voice their lamentation, but also support for Glass. Almost immediately after the post, the band’s management assured that Crystal Castles would continue with Ethan as the sole driving force. Six months later, Ethan Kath released a new single entitled “Frail” with vocals credited to “a girl named Edith.”
Edith Frances was revealed to be the new front woman for Crystal Castles after the two ran into each other, literally, in an LA club. The new musical output has some remnants of the style that launched the group initially, but fails to push boundaries or shock as they once were known to do with Alice. Edith’s vocals feel somewhat empty and lack the cathartic energy that initially attracted fans to the band. Spectral but complacent, her voice has no signs of the punk stylings of her predecessor. Faux-trap by way of glitch beats with airy vocals is not what fans have come to expect.
Even more disconcerting is the negative tone Kath has taken when discussing his former bandmate. Referring to her as “my former vocalist” and saying she has little to no part in their “most popular songs.” He has since retracted some of the statements he made disparaging her and her contributions, likely due to the backlash it caused amongst fans and critics. Had it not been for Glass’ electrifying stage presence, supremely unique melodies, and aggressive delivery, Crystal Castles would have likely languished on the internet as just some guy making harsher chiptune-esque music.
And now, allegations of physical, mental, and sexual abuse have come to light against Ethan Kath (real name Claudio Palmieri) levied by Alice Glass. Alice details multiple accounts in a statement posted on her personal website starting when she was just a 15 year old sophomore in high school. She looked up to Palmieri as something of a local celebrity, which quickly gave way to every aspect of her life allegedly being controlled and manipulated. It is a narrative that feels all too familiar both in the entertainment industry and among women everywhere. Unfortunately the split now seems like it was inevitable given that “he often told [her] how replaceable [she] was. He’d even tell [her] that he was actively looking for someone to replace [her].” Ethan Kath has since released a statement to Pitchfork via his lawyer denying the accusations made by Glass.
Listen to the band’s debut album then compare it to the 2016 release, Amnesty (I), and decide for yourself whether Crystal Castles should call it quits.