Bleep Bloop. It’s kind of a genre, but not quite — more a category of music classified by the ever-enigmatic Carles of Hipster Runoff, the sardonic king of his own blogging universe. Much like his independently coined Chillwave, a genre formed after the explosive rise of laconic bands like Washed Out and Real Estate, Carles established Bleep Bloop following the similarly rapid rise of the “electronically experimental” (as determined by some Wikipedia contributor) Crystal Castles.
While Carles may have constantly poked fun at the Canadian duo, the pair had true musical merit — they were creating melodic, expertly crafted Bleep Bloop, a soundtrack to some form of effervescent, heavenly arcade. Simply put, it was beautiful.
Sadly, Carles may finally be justified in his constant Bleep Bloop mockery. Crystal Castles’s third album, candidly titled (III), is not only sonically irritating, but it’s almost embarrassing to the blossoming electronic genre.
Unlike the graceful beauty which came along with the groups’ last “bleeps” (see “Magic Spells”), many of the songs on (III) are grotesquely arranged — a collective nightmare of “bloops.” Whereas the music of (II) may have transported you to an empyrean arcade, (III) leaves you feeling hopeless and disturbed — trapped in a dark arcade on a never-ending bad trip.
Songs like “Plague” begin with somewhat promising melodies, only to slowly transform into macabre-infused arrangements of stuttering synth and shrill yelps. “Insulin,” on the other hand, never has any hope: it begins with ominous bass, ends with ominous bass, and centers itself around distorted guitars and more screaming. If a car wreck were a song, this would be it.
Some tracks on (III) are frustrating purely in musical arrangement — songs like “Kerosene” and “Violent Youth” would be great, if not only for some questionable sonic decisions. “Kerosene,” for example, begins with looming synth, a sound best supplanted by simple drums and subtle samples. However, Ethan Kath (the man behind Crystal Castles’s production) introduces a bouncing, reverberating vocal sample best likened to the aggravating sound of rewinding an old cassette.
On “Violent Youth,” Kath splatters shrill, disorderly, Care Bear-like vocals over a tremendously simple Bleep-Bloop base. The concoction of sounds transforms each track from “song” to “noise” — from melody to barely listenable bursts of uneven energy. Resisting the double arrows of the skip button becomes increasingly difficult as each track develops.
When the duo breaks out of soundtracks for harrowing disasters and bad trips, they actually show some promise: tracks such as “Wrath of God” and “Child I Will Hurt You” (disregard the names) are spacely and hypnotic: psychedelic in a good way. “Transgender” is slightly awkward, but surprisingly easy to listen to in a trance-y sort of way. Basically, it’d be good to play for some Molly-d out crowd.
Sure, Crystal Castles took a darker turn with (III). It’s obvious from the get-go — song titles such as “Pale Flesh,” “Sad Eyes” and “Violent Youth” all attest to the group’s attempt at a more ominous image. However, darkness can be done gracefully, and the Canadian duo come off sounding more Skrillex than Shlohmo (whose “Crew Love” remix is the perfect example of dark done right).
Whether they wanted to distance themselves from their musical past or draw themselves closer to the dubstep-esque popularity of today is unclear, but nonetheless, the duo falls into some no-man’s land of barely listenable chaos. The Bleep Bloop days of Crystal Castles’s melancholic past are seemingly gone with (III), and gosh darn it, Carles is finally right. Crystal Castles does seem like kind of a joke.