Tuesday, November 27th, 2012
These Streets Will Never Look the Same
Review of Chromatics’ Kill For Love
Richard BernardinAs someone who is ostensibly in the business of finding and sharing new music, it’s a bit embarrassing that I’m just getting around to covering Portland’s Chromatics now. And I didn’t just miss out on their latest effort, Kill For Love, since it was released back in March. The whole Johnny Jewel extended family of Glass Candy, Desire, what have you, the extensive Italians Do It Better catalog, the fact that “Tick Of The Clock” from 2007’s Night Drive is apparently omnipresent in film soundtracks and ads. No idea of any of it. All I knew was that people around the internets really seemed to like Kill For Love, that it sounded like the sort of thing I might like, and so a few months ago I finally got around to giving the Soundcloud stream a spin.
I’ve seen Kill For Love described as disco, noir, electro, retro, indie, post-punk, and dream-pop, amongst other descriptors – almost always coupled with “cinematic” and “widescreen” – and it is all of these things and more, but what gets me about it is how it manages to be so impossibly slick and synthetic, yet raw and resonant in a way that I can’t pinpoint. It operates under its own laws of emotional physics, simultaneously unending neon, urban sprawl and intense, almost smothering intimacy. Sometimes making its 77 minute running time feel like an eternity, other times a half a blink, all depending on how you’re feeling.
It works its magic through Jewel’s impossibly glamorous production, all perfectly textured keyboards and sculpted waveforms, gleaming guitars, and layered atmosphere, and singer/guitarist Ruth Radelet’s voice. In keeping with the music, it’s a study in contradictions – superficially simple in both timbre and the melodies it carries, and yet so rich and evocative, it can’t help but make a body shiver; it sounds like sex but tastes like love with the scent of regret. And while singling out specifics, I should mention that I don’t often get obsessed with individual guitar tones anymore, there’s a high probability that I’ll be breaking into the band’s studio sometime in the near future just to see what the hell Adam Miller is playing through. I probably shouldn’t have admitted that in public. Each full listen of Kill For Love is a pretty major commitment, but always worth it and offering up something new each time out.
Most likely, none of this is news to anyone who’s been following the music zeitgeist this year; the only reason I’m putting this down as a matter of record now is so that I don’t find myself justifying the appearance of a record on my year-end list (ooh, spoilers!) that I’ve never so much as mentioned. Though maybe that’d be kind of fun, too. So yes, late to the party but it’s been ongoing all year – just recently, a new mixtape entitled Running From The Sun containing alternate versions of Kill For Love tracks and unreleased tracks was made available to download, and just this week they released a new MP3 and video from the forthcoming Italians Do It Better label sampler After Dark 2, due out before the end of the year. And it’s also a small comfort to know that I didn’t miss a local live date, since there hasn’t been one. Maybe next year.
Johnny Jewel is a pretty interesting interview, as well. I’ve been catching up on his and the band’s background via these pieces from over the year at The Quietus, Self-Titled, Pitchfork, and about.com. There was also a recent interview with Radelet at The Huffington Post.
Video: Quicksand – “Delusional”
Stream: Eels – “Peach Blossom”