Alice Glass - Prey//IV (Eating Glass Records)

Alice Glass – Prey//IV (Eating Glass Records)

After eight years and three albums as the vocalist of influential Canadian witch house group Crystal Castles, Alice Glass mysteriously left the group in 2014, to be replaced by Edith Frances, saying that it was because of “sincerity, honesty, and empathy for others“. It didn’t seem too odd at the time considering that the gloomy persona of Alice Glass – real name Margaret Osborn – had until then been enigmatic, as interviews with the singer had been minimal and her identity only expressed by her manic live performances and gothic make-up. And then in 2017, Glass wrote a statement on her official website, which is still there to this day, that revealed why she desperately had to get away from the project: the physical and psychological torment that was allegedly suffered at the hands of the band’s producer Ethan Kath – real name Claudio Palmieri. The ambiguity of her identity – a group rule articulated by her band mate.

Alice Glass’ debut solo LP Prey//IV  follows the stand-alone 2015 Electropunk single ‘Stillbirth’ which had its proceeds go towards charities that help survivors of domestic abuse, and a self titled dark-pop EP from 2017 that included songs about fighting for abuse survivors, self-harm and tackling forgiveness. Prey//IV is an extension of these thoughts and although it  doesn’t mention Ethan Kath by name, the record clearly documents particular traumatic incidents and the pain he caused. The album being biographical, to relate to other victims, and to raise awareness of these issues. The title itself, which could be read with a second meaning as “pray for”, is a critical nod to her former band. Crystal Castles named their albums with bracketed roman numerals that went up to (III) when she still part of the band and then purposely and disrespectfully went back to (I) when Edith Frances took over the vocal reins. By subtitling it IV it shows that this is the fourth chapter in her music career and gains back the ownership of her former band’s writing credits.

Prey //IV is not a pleasurable Sunday afternoon listen but then again why should it be? It uses the harsh, frightening discord of electro-industrial music to display the fear, anxiety and sudden attacks that the preyed upon face on a daily basis. Sounds that appear to depict the slicing of knives, the growl of a monster lurking in the shadows and screams of ghosts trapped in a machine.  Opening title track ‘PREY’, is reminiscent of the soundtrack to the experimental German film Run Lola Run, with its techno pace and calm Franka Potente-style vocals, until unexpected distortion pierces through the listeners ears at intervals until it overtakes the track. This hints at the unsettling experience that beholds the listener of this Alice Glass album, as the Canadian ends the song with the lines: “Do I wish I was never born? Afraid Why are you hurting me?” A similar atmosphere on is on ‘WITCH HUNT’,  a track that features the production help of Denmark’s , its raucous moments vibrate and contrast with the sweeter Grimes-like vocals and the more natural-sounding crow caws.

There are elements that could be associated with the music of Crystal Castles, in particular Alice Glass’ megaphonic shouts. With her former band they could be described as merely part of their signature sound but on Prey//IV, they seem more appropriate, a release of built-up anger. On ‘SUFFER AND SWALLOW’, they accompany lines that suggest a tortious revenge is being taken place on her perpetrator. “I’ll cut your tongue out of your mouth. And wear your fingers/I’ll use your teeth for my crown But I don’t need it (Need it, need it). Feel your face when it rips”. However there’s a bit more to it than that. The lines: “Everyone said I won’t.” could be aimed towards people who doubted her ability to expose her trauma. “THE HUNTED” begins with monster sounds, as the tracks talks about the cycle of mistreatment: Violence -> Kindness -> Violence. “Slowly, they poison us so breathe it in. Stop giving us all false hope. Washing down the aftertaste tonight.”

The best track in which Glass uses her electronic yelling is on ‘FAIR GAME’ as it uses actual phrases spoken to her, supposedly by Ethan Kath, that raise issues of gaslighting. Kath controlled Glass by both concocting an us-vs-them strategy and threatening to push her out of the band if he didn’t follow rules. “When you dance, you look like a clown. You ruined everything / Where would you be without me?” The most powerful lines show the insanity behind the calculated split personalities of the abuser shown in the lines inside and outside the parenthesis: “I’m just trying to help you (But you don’t trust me). You’re insane (I thought you loved me).” Listening to this makes it hard to re-watchold clips of Crystal Castles live shows without a feeling of cringe and sympathy.

Prey//IV is album that won’t be one of the most easy album to listen to in 2022 while performing monotonous activities, but then again its never easy to listen to the confessions of survivors. Its importance is eye-opening, making it a worthy inclusion to this year’s album releases.


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