Chromatics â€“ Kill For Love
Release Date: March 26, 2012
Label: Italians Do It Better
Review by: William Dashiell Hammett
Iâ€™m going to begin this review by stating that I think Chromatics could possibly by one of the best names for a band ever. And the very images and sentiments the name invokes certainly fit the current direction of this project from the team of Adam Miller, Johnny Jewel, Ruth Radelet and Nat Walker. Billed as â€œthe reflection on the dark side of the streetâ€, the group went through a radical shift in personalâ€”with Miller being the only original member still with the groupâ€”and sound. With the addition of Glass Candyâ€™s Johnny Jewel, the project transitioned from the post-punk style on early releases Chrome Rats vs. Basement Rutz and Plaster Hounds to a much darker sythpop that debuted on the 2007 release Night Drive and continues on Kill For Love: a ninety-one minute, seventeen track monster of a release.
The album begins with a cover of Neil Youngâ€™s â€œHey Hey, My My (Into the Black)â€ dubbed simply as â€œInto the Blackâ€. I know that the song is considered by many to be a classic and Iâ€™ll probably be looking over my shoulder for the rest of my life wary of crazed Crazy Horse/Young fans, but I never particularly cared for Neil Young. Seriously, the man cannot sing (and I may have just gotten myself banned from Canada by saying that, I know). So it with great relish that I say I absolutely fell in love with Ruth Radeletâ€™s voice during this track. Starting with a set, deliberate pace, the song really allows Radeletâ€™s soprano to take center stage before the music builds and layers. The title track follows and instantly changes the tone of the album. Much quicker paced and harder, the early 80â€™s goth inspiration really becomes apparent with this track, but it is just inspiration and not regurgitation or replication. This sound is continued in the track â€œBack From The Graveâ€ but is added to with some really nice harmonization and sound effects layered throughout to give the track some amazing depth.
The next track, â€œThe Pageâ€, I can actually see myself dancing to back in high school. It would easily have fit into the club sets of New Order, Jesus and the Mary Chain and The Cure seamlessly. The beautiful synth waves harmonize perfectly with Radeletâ€™s soft, but penetrating, voice and the exceptionally clean guitar and syncopated bass line are really quite stunning. â€œLadyâ€ starts with a nice synth progression and just Radeletâ€™s voice for the first verse before the song expands to fill the soundscape with clean accents and a very interesting plucked-string synth line really dominates for the later half of the song. Starting off with a quick tempo, â€œThese Streets Will Never Look the Sameâ€ really projects a feeling of impatience and incessantness. The vocals, while best described as a Banshee Autotuned Vocoded Nightmare from Hell, work well with the ceaseless guitar and synth lines backed by some deep percussion. Artistically, it works and is very well producedâ€”but Iâ€™m not going to hold my breath waiting for it to enter the top 40.
Luckily for us after the whirlwind that was the first six tracks of Kill For Love, the next track, â€œBroken Mirrorsâ€, is an atmospheric instrumental giving us time to catch our breath before picking us back up for the ride. â€œCandyâ€ brings Radeletâ€™s voice back to center stage by beginning the song with just a light guitar line in the background. The track builds throughout the first verse adding percussion, bass line and some nice synth waves. The song is beautifully simple and striking. â€œThe Eleventh Hourâ€ opens with a string solo that gives way to a melodic, atmospheric synth. The track, another entirely instrumental song, fades away slowly with a panning synth line before a clock like sound counts down to the explosive piano opening of â€œRunning From The Sunâ€. This track is dominated by the return of the Banshee Autotuned Vocoded Nightmare from Hell vocals and while still mostly working, I found it to be a bit in front of the mix. The percussion in this track was really exceptional and very well produced and the 80s retro synth lines work themselves in effortlessly.
â€œDust to Dustâ€ opens with a guitar track, soon backed by a building synth wave and panning vocal samples. A short instrumental track, it gives way to a heavily effected piano line during the opening of â€œBirds of Paradiseâ€. The piano quiets and cleans itself up when Radeletâ€™s voice comes in. The track continues to transition back and forth between intense piano solos and the soulful vocal work from Radelet. The following song, â€œA Matter of Timeâ€ begins with an abrasive synth line before giving way to Radeletâ€™s voice, thrown up an octave. The percussion is dominated by a steady metronome like hit hat, the simple guitar chords, piano and Radeletâ€™s voice are almost regulated to slave status to its incessant clicking, but are saved by clever use of synth lines as the song progresses. A bubbly light synth progression opens â€œAt Your Doorâ€ and soon joined by an equally light and more tradition percussion track. Another track that could possible spawn a single it encompasses a nice pop formula but also shows a highly creative aspect that most pop songs do not have.
â€œThere’s a Light Out On the Horizonâ€ is another instrumental track that drips with emotions. Midway through the track, you hear someone checking their voice mailâ€”the melancholic message amplifies the mood of the track as it drifts off and fades to nothing. Picking up and fading in from that nothing is the track â€œThe Riverâ€. The steady percussion fades in and is joined briefly by some accenting percussion before the piano and Radeletâ€™s performance take over accompanied by a crackling vinyl LP sound (yes, Iâ€™m old enough to know what that actually sounds like). The song is paced slowly and the guitar and various accents to it give weight to feelings of dejection and sorrow Radeletâ€™s vocals are so adept at projecting. Then out of nowhere, a bubbly synth line comes in taking this track into a total â€œTheatre of the Absurdâ€ range before ending and leaving you wanting. The album wraps up with the fourteen minute long instrumental opus â€œNo Escapeâ€ and quite frankly, this reviewer wouldnâ€™t want to escape.
So what does all of this leave us? Between the exceptional production work and discreetly seductive nature of Radelteâ€™s voice, the sum of its parts make Kill For Love one piece of work without giving it the forged tone of a concept album. The songs flow effortlessly one to another and infiltrate themselves into your subconscious affecting you on more levels than just tonal. If you let it, Kill For Love will create whole worlds of images and mood in your mind. While they will be lumped in with acts like M83, Ladyhawke, The Joy Formidable (thanks, Gabe for that one) and others of the various neo-new wave, shoegaze, noisy-alt rock genres, that would be a disservice to Chromatics. While they would certainly fit in a line up with those other groups, there is something intangible that sets them apart. Seriously, if you need something to listen to, be inspired by, be in creative awe and generally just love without knowing why, Kill For Love will score in all of those categories.
01. Into The Black (5.23)
02. Kill For Love (3.58)
03. Back From The Grave (3.43)
04. The Page (3.36)
05. Lady (5.08)
06. These Streets Will Never Look The Same (8.37)
07. Broken Mirrors (7.03)
08. Candy (2.30)
09. The Eleventh Hour (3.28)
10. Running From The Sun (7.07)
11. Dust To Dust (2.41)
12. Birds Of Paradise (4.26)
13. A Matter Of Time (5.06)
14. At Your Door (3.53)
15. There’s A Light Out On The Horizon (4.44)
16. The River (6.10)
17. No Escape (14.01)