[sic] Magazine

Chromatics – Kill For Love

Any album which starts with one of the most sumptuous Neil Young covers you are going to hear of ‘Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)’ and finishes nearly 80 minutes later with a 14 minutes plus of Brian Eno -style ambience in the closing track ‘No Escape’ must have something going for it. Indeed it is mighty pleasing to report that ChromaticsKill For love on the ‘Italians Do It Better’ label is undoubtedly one of the best things released in 2012, even though its gestation starts as far back as 2007 with the album a full five years in the making.

The ambition police perhaps could criticise this band from Portland, Oregon for the sheer audacity and scale of this album but within its grooves are shades of the Cocteau Twins , New Order , House Music, Italian Disco and any of the Heinz 57 varieties of electronica you can imagine. The band consists of the shimmering vocals of Ruth Radelet (vocals/synthesizer), Adam Miller (guitar/vocoder), Nat Walker (drums/synthesizer), and resident genius Johnny Jewel (producer, multi-instrumentalist).

On one level you could argue that Kill For love neatly splits into two parts with the album comprising five big electronic instrumentals with more pop-orientated synth music, but that would be too simple. After repeated plays the listener realises that this smorgasbord of songs do have unifying themes and that despite the presence of a guitar on the cover it’s the waves of pulsating musical landscapes and imagery that are the real core of the album.

The Neil Young cover highlighted above shines light onto the wonder of Radelet’s vocals with the superb backing instrumentation of Jewel colouring it in with fitting backdrop. It is arguable that the first six songs on Kill For love including the New Order-sounding beauty of the title track, the epic ‘Back From The Grave’, the icy dance music of ‘Lady’ and especially the near-nine minute electronic sweet-and-sour menace of ‘These Streets Will Never Look The Same’ amount to the best opening to a rock album since the year dot. It is simply dazzling stuff, truly modern sounds for modern days.

These songs set the bar so high that nothing can really touch them, although the band try at every possible opportunity. Thus, ‘Running For The Sun’ starts out with haunting piano and moves into a longing vocoder-infused ballad that is well worth a download for the uninitiated. The beautiful love song ‘Bird Of Paradise’ should melt the coldest of winter hearts while the ghost of Kraftwerk is evoked by the excellent instrumental ‘The River’. Listeners would also profit seeking out some of the other instrumentals recorded by this band, not least the brilliant backing to Ryan Gosling ‘s neo-noir crime drama film ‘Drive’ – namely the menacing threat of ‘Tick Of The Clock’. The fantastic ‘Broken Mirrors’ on this album reprises some of these soundscapes.

The review site Music OMH has described Kill For love as having ‘a My Bloody Valentine grandeur…. but executed primarily with electronics; guitars present, but phased and treated’. There is something in this as it is one of those records whose gravitational is magnetic to the listener and it stands as a piece of work that requires detailed exploration and forensic examination while at the same time it descends down your musical burrow and chivvys you out like an old stoat (apologies to E. Waugh).

It’s pleasing at the end of 2012 reviewing season to conclude a varied musical year dominated by veteran performers with a band who have also paid their musical dues in full and delivered in spades. Kill For love is a handsome and stylish record full of pristine sounds and intriguing rhythms. Johnny Jewel is a full blown composer scoring movie soundtracks, with a proper understanding of tension versus release and in Kill Ffor love he and his band have unleashed a huge polished diamond.