[sic] Magazine

Small Black – New Chain

Finding a little warmth within the chillwave genre, Brooklyn four-piece Small Black earned themselves an LP out of Jagjaguwar after the label understandably fell in love with “Despicable Dogs” – the catchiest cut from the band’s 2008 EP. Now Small Black draw comparison with the ambient washes of Toro Y Moi and have recently shared stages with Washed Out , fleshing out his live shows with members from within their own ranks. Yet, Small Black are more than just copycats.

With a strong pop heart akin to Passion Pit , New Chain’s lazy, warped drift coasts on watery production while Josh Kolenik ‘s downbeat vocal bobs in its haze. However, its reverbed drums and Juan Pieczanski ‘s bass work stand the album outside of the chillwave hub.

Fuzzy synths add a diaphaneity throughout, but no more so than on the warped, horizontal rhythms of the opener “Camouflage”. Next, there’s a ridiculously jaunty 80s pop jangle to the bobbing, chattering synths of “Search Party”, which lands it close to M83 ‘s latest incarnation. With a barely-there aesthetic, “Hydra” merely bubbles into the conscious on occasion, despite being rather pleasant when it does.

It’s a little disappointing to find no obvious heirs to “Despicable Dogs” with no track on New Chain crystallising quite as well, but “Photojournalist” has a good try. It’s the catchiest offering the LP has and lollops blearily on hollow-sounding percussion and seasick synths while Kolenik emotes breathily in disinterest. Later, the fuzzy squelch of “Crisp 100s” is very Gary Numan , though it features Kolenik’s most bleached vocal, which takes it into more intangible waters.

New Chain’s stars align for “Goons”. Pulling some pure shoegaze out of the bag with its ebbing, flowing synths that musically recall The Cocteau Twins until the track cuts to vocal, keyboardist-cum-songwriter Ryan Heyner ‘s plan starts to become clear. His tracks don’t have the energy to cut through their own haze, so instead he builds directly with it. Consequently, “Goons” seems to take the shape of a unattainable cloud-city, and from there on in, Small Black let fly quivering, fragrant barbs from their walls – some of which hit the listener square in the heart.

Advised downloads: “Camouflage”, “Photojournalist” and “Goons”.

~New Chain is released on Jagjaguwar on the 25th October 2010.~