Alice Glass – PREY//IV
Alice Glass has been on a journey of self-reclamation. Following the public fallout of Crystal Castles and her allegations of emotional and sexual abuse against former bandmate Ethan Kath, Glass was left shattered. But since then, she’s been picking up the pieces and has taken the time to temper herself into something far stronger, less breakable than before. She’s mostly kept to herself. Since everything came crashing down in 2014, Glass has released a small string of singles and an EP, but otherwise vanished from the public eye. It was away from the world that she began to rebuild herself. A key part of this journey has been honouring her damage, and while she’s smelted herself into something new she hasn’t smoothed over the cracks. Like battle scars, those cracks that once caused immeasurable pain are now her source of immeasurable strength. The result of this process, and the product of Glass’s confrontation of her trauma, is her debut album Prey//IV. Produced by her partner Jupiter Keyes of HEALTH fame, Prey//IV is an intense, acrid recollection of her pain that serves as a means for Glass to take back her power. And she does so with force.
Pop as medium to access, process, and exorcise trauma is not uncommon, but artists who have unpacked these themes in their work have usually aimed to make the subject matter accessible. Either immersing themselves in the emotional weight of it, as Kesha did on Rainbow, or spinning it into self-empowerment in the vein of Taylor’s Swift’s Reputation. Glass on the other hand, makes no attempt to create something palatable. She doesn’t filter her trauma through any prism of beauty or self-reflection, nor does she glamourise the pain with overwrought sentiment. Instead, she calls it out for what it is: violent. “I’m fading fast” she offers on the album’s opening lines, against a throbbing techno bass line on PREY. Explosions of electronic static shred through the shuddering beat, becoming more urgent until PREY crescendos into a furious, carnal screech. On Pinned Beneath Limbs, Glass recounts the verbal and emotional abuse she’s faced. “Don’t talk to your friends, don’t talk to your family.” She lists these casually, cooly recounting these demands without showing any signs of the power they once held over her. On Love Is Violence, she contemplates her rage and lust for revenge; “I don’t want to think, I need to kill.” But she’s sharing these feelings from the perspective of having processed them, rather than out of instinctual fight mode.
In fact, across Prey//IV Glass is speaking from this state of awareness; she shares her thoughts, sometimes gruesome, sometimes nihilistic, with the conversational air of having reconciled them for herself. She doesn’t dwell on things either. Most of the songs on Prey//IV are done in less than three minutes, never lingering too long to lapse into sentiment. This makes the impact of her confessions like “I’ll use your teeth for my crown” or “feel your face when it rips” all the more powerful and chilling. The objective distance from where Glass recounts her experiences gives her a sense of untouchable authority. This is her realm, and she holds the power to let them eat cake or have off with their heads. Mostly, she chooses diplomacy over straight up carnage. The deliberate, almost strategic approach to the performance of her songs commands respect, and we are left feeling like we are in the presence of someone incredibly self-aware. This delivery makes the production on Prey//IV all the more potent. In contrast to Glass’s tactful demeanour, the music on Prey//IV goes in for the kill. It’s peppered with bursts of doom core and industrial noise, and deeply unsettling abysmal bass booms. Firmly rooted in the post-punk synth rave for which she is known, Prey//IV is typical of Glass’s style albeit a touch more jagged. It’s echoed in Prey//IV’s visuals, which for all accounts have been intensely vicious. This is dance pop with some seriously sharp edges. At times macabre, at others dangerously seductive, the sound Keyes crafts for Prey//IV surges with a fiercely feminine energy, like electronic hymnals in reverence of the goddess Kali. There are touches of dark, dungeon style techno and skittish, unnerving elements of trap and witch house. It’s a record made for the dancefloor, but designed with the confrontational force of death metal.
While Glass maintains her composure for most of Prey//IV, at times she allows herself to give in to her more carnal desires. This is most true of HUNTER. The song functions as the antithesis to PREY in a sense, flipping the narrative and positioning Glass not as the hunted, but rather the predator thirsty for blood and lusting over revenge. HUNTER indulges her dark, twisted, payback fantasies and the result is a bizarre conglomeration of unhinged hysteria and dazzlingly triumphant catharsis. Other times, she gives in to the weight of her sadness. I Trusted You is soaked in the melancholy of heartbreak and the disappointment of betrayal. On previously released single Fair Game, Glass chips away until she breaks herself open. In the record’s most vulnerable and viscously honest moment, she lays out everything that she has wanted to say to her abuser with icy clarity. “You ruined everything, I’m embarrassed for you” she says stoically, before posing an important question (and one that’s been on all of our minds since her renunciation of Kath and Crystal Castles) : “Where would you be without me?”
Prey//IV is a triumphant rebirth for Glass that ends (or rather, slaughters) the narrative of her past on her own terms. Glass’s re-arrival in the present moment feels fitting. Her status as one of alt-pop’s most distinguished icons is undeniable, and she’s influenced much of what’s happening in genres like hyperpop and post-club today. That Prey//IV continues the same sonic route as the one she pioneered with Crystal Castles is significant. She’s reclaiming this for herself and effectively writing Crystal Castles out of the narrative altogether. Following her departure from the band in 2014, Glass was swiftly replaced with Edith Frances, and Kath attempted to erase Glass from the band’s work by claiming she never actually featured on much of the band’s music anyway. Yet, it was always Glass that made Crystal Castles shine, and it was impossible to separate her from what she had very clearly created in her own image. From Poppy to Jazmin Bean, there’s an entire generation of current alt-pop stars who owe much to Glass, and with Prey//IV she’s making sure that we never forget that it’s been her paving the way all along.
Listen to I Trusted You from Prey//IV below.
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