Crystal Castles, "Amnesty (I)"
Electro-punk noisemakers Crystal Castles return with a lineup that's 50 percent new and a sound that's still 100 percent uncompromising. Original vocalist Alice Glass left amid reports of acrimony in 2014, and on "Amnesty (I)" producer-maestro Ethan Kath is joined by new singer Edith Frances.
The essentials of Crystal Castles' ethos remain. Frances' vocals — ranging from ethereal to insistent — counterpoint Kath's sonic assault on an album that blends electronic bleeps, industrial screeches and the human voice to often unsettling effect.
The title seemingly refers to the human rights organization Amnesty International, and the lead track is "Femen," a mix of synths, electro beats and snatches of choir that may reference the Ukrainian feminist group of the same name.
Or maybe not. Crystal Castles are reluctant to explain their work, leaving listeners to decide whether to be infuriated or intrigued by what they hear.
Frances' strong voice is blended so deep in the mix that lyrics become obscure. The voice is just one element on an album whose pleasures lie in its patchwork of contrasting textures.
On "Fleece," Frances sings words of love over jagged noise, while "Enth" sounds like techno night in an imploding nightclub.
Energy builds to the up-tempo "Kept" — the nearest thing here to a party anthem — before the gentle closer "Their Kindness is Charade."
For fans, the album will likely be a welcome return. Listeners less familiar with Crystal Castles may find themselves puzzled, provoked, shaken and stirred.