The Immortal Alice Glass



My sister owned a Zune. Stored within that now obscure, antiquated Microsoft-manufactured media player, was a musical goldmine that my sister was gracious enough to expose me to -- all songs courtesy of the also now defunct service Limewire. Her Zune was stocked with a myriad of tracks that were stuck in time--band names I vaguely remember and tracks that were a novelty at the time that I never really came to care for as I transitioned into my teens.


Yet there were some notable names that crossed my radar at that time, and among the exciting new music discoveries like Underoath, HORSE The Band, and Brokencyde, there was a sound that piqued my interest like none other, and it came courtesy of a track titled “Crimewave”. An infatuation began that I, now almost 10 years later, would never dream to think would remain pertinent to music and the contemporary underground scene at large.


This isn’t to say that the band behind “Crimewave” didn’t lack a slight novelty appeal; Crystal Castles’s quirky “nintendocore” soundscapes and grating vocals a la Alice Glass were jarring to hear for the first time for a young man that grew up with corridos and Cholo rap blaring through walls on the periphery. Yet, as time would show, the culture shock that spurred my initial reaction to the group was indeed not just shock, but adoration for the sound and energy the group exuded, something that millions can say they agree with as darling tracks like “Vanished,” “Empathy,” and the now-iconic “Not In Love” collectively sit at hundreds of millions of streams to this day. Following that, these harsh, exotic, and intoxicating sounds came courtesy of a young woman -- a deviation from the male dominated genres that were amassed inside the Zune library.


Crystal Castles, and more importantly Alice Glass, were revealed to me at a time of burgeoning rebellion commonly found among young dumb kids. This incessant need to swear, be weird on the fringes, and be cool of all things allowed me to absorb all that Alice Glass had to offer sonically and aesthetically. At the core of Crystal Castles’s sound was orchestrated chaos, and the thirst for flagrant noise and chaos was quenched beautifully by none other than the duo, namely their 2008 self titled album.


Crystal Castles and (II) were seminal projects that featured stellar vocal performances from Glass, and ranged from bombastic to hauntingly serene. That said, while stand out tracks like “Vanished,” “Courtship Dating.” “Celestica,” and “Fainting Spells” spanned the two projects respectively, Crystal Castles would soon fade into obscurity, at least in my life, for quite some time. Some years later, I reminisced on these aforementioned tracks and once again was lured back into consuming as much Crystal Castles as I could, yet again adding the group into my daily music rotations. This would become the norm for my routine music listening, despite having to confront the new reality that recontextualized my love for the duo.


As satisfying as it was to meditate on the body of work that Crystal Castles had to offer, time showed audiences that there was more than meets the eye when it came to the group’s dynamic. The 2014 departure of Alice Glass from Crystal Castles, and the sordid reasons for why the departure had to happen, in a very macabre manner, reinforced the ethos of Glass and why I was drawn to her, and by extension the band itself in the process. What began as just a voice that championed noise, free expression, and boldness to my childhood sensibilities, grew from a disembodied, almost hymnal entity into a solo artist whose trials and tribulations only translated into more gripping and insatiable music.


For so long, Alice Glass maintained this veiled mystique that even well into my teens I was unable to see past. I longed for more coverage of the artist, whether it be through interviews, TV spots, or professionally recorded concerts that I could find archived on Youtube. Unfortunately, the sparse nature of these things turned out to be by design, and it wasn’t until recently that my longing for more media involving Glass emerged. That emergence dissolved the shroud of mystery that loomed for some time, and not only was it impressive to see the growth of Alice Glass from early aughts into the ‘10s as she became even more deserving of center stage, but it’s the fact that Glass’s relevance did not suffer at the hands of time. Rather, her solo career bloomed and improved upon the same sonic nature that was once at the helm of Crystal Castles. Her debut single “Stillbirth” was a step in a new direction that still spiritually succeeded the sound of Crystal Castles projects, with dense trilling electronic instrumentals and shrill yet dulcet vocals. The difference is, this new iteration of Glass could be consumed without a shadow of a doubt that Glass’ endeavors were free of any marring or abuse.


The trajectory of Glass’s new solo career became even more awe-inspiring as it intersected with a brand new wave of individuals that sprouted from a whole other realm of the internet, arguably a realm that Alice Glass herself paved the way for; to see Glass’ name mixed in with the likes of underground veterans like Lil Zubin and Wicca Phase Springs Eternal on the track “Dark Alley” or with Nedarb on “Eat Me Alive” was a sight to behold. In conjunction with that, remixes of tracks from her self titled album were crafted by the hands of household names like Ghostemane and King Yosef.


Even as culture shifted and the underground music landscape budded into what it is today, Alice Glass triumphantly remained in the zeitgeist, a far cry away from the Zune and Limewire age. A stand out indicator of Glass’s role in this new era is her being pictured by and with contemporary tastemaker Jack Angell - founder of the music blog Underground Underdogs - an integral figure to the underground scene at large. Front and center in Angell’s image is seemingly one of the progenitors of it all.

Fast forward to the present day scene in the latter half of 2020. As teenage musicians, many not unlike Glass herself, have found themselves pushing the envelope and dominating streaming services with a new form of chaotic, vapid, and electronic music, one has to notice that almost a decade ago, a figure that still reigns largely in music was once in the same position that the “hyperpop” generation is in now. The fruits of Alice Glass’ labor are in full view, as acts like OSQuinn, 100 Gecs, and, ironically enough, Alice Gas have audiences in a frenzy for this newly invigorating sound.


Suffice to say, I have been listening to Alice Glass since I was about 9 years old. 12 years later, I get the pleasure to reflect on the impact that the artist has had with full confidence that her name will be recognized fondly even as genres and experiments have come and gone. The entity that was once the frontman for an electronic band I discovered in my youth is now a more than revered woman--flesh, vocals, media presence, whose music still elicits the same, if not an improved, warm and cutting edge feel. At 32, an age that is not fondly looked upon in this throwaway culture of ours, Alice Glass still persists; she cannot age away, and her tenure in my life, and I assume the lives of many others, is exhibit A of that fact.