Chromatic’s 90 minute dream pop opus Kill For Love.
Yes that’s right, 90 minutes. 90. Sodding. Minutes. Approaching any album of that length is a daunting proposition, and so it was with some trepidation that I grabbed this album and began listening. Within minutes that anxiety had melted away, and subsequent listens have reaffirmed that this is very, very good indeed.
It’s late afternoon and you’re leaving the house. You slip on your headphones as you walk down the street and put on Kill For Love. All of a sudden a dense pink fog falls, obscuring your vision. It’s warm and soft, you feel like you could just curl up and fall asleep, even die, within it. And that’s all there is to it; Kill For Love is a sparse, deliciously cinematic listening experience with a pseudo-vintage, Instagram-esque sound quality. The textures are filled with rich analogue synths, expansively reverbed vocals and the occasional blat of the guitar, all of which are infused with a gently aged fuzz, like a well worn record.
I could just leave it there, in fact I almost feel tempted to do so. My creative juices are not flowing at all this week and at this present moment in time I’m feeling a little more than just fed up with music, but Kill For Love is just too good to leave hanging like that.
Things start controversially for some with the opener “Into The Black”, a cover of a track I’ve personally never heard before by Neil Young. The vocals are clear and precise, the guitars feel a little rough around the edges and there’s an underlying haze permeating it all, filled with minute clicks and scratches. It feels aged and yet so modern. Then the beautiful title track arrives suddenly on a sparkly platter of synth and driven percussion. Guitar and synth solos break apart the slightly buried yet once again haunting vocals.
“Everybody’s got a secret to hide/
“Everyone is slipping backawards.”
“Back From The Grave” loses its vocal power somewhat; despite bringing them to the fore they feel more childlike, innocent and naive in their delivery. The lyrics are wistful, proclaiming her parents and lover are gone (presumed dead), yet the overall delivery remains curiously sugary and upbeat. No time to dwindle though, there’s a long way to go, and my personal favourite double act is next; “The Page” followed by “Lady”. The uptempo, nearly danceable former with its guitar pulses and bassline is darker and more melancholy despite the obscured vocals, while the latter marks a turn for the cinematic. “Lady” is smooth, sexy and thoroughly addictive. The synth pop undercurrents rope you in, ensnare your senses and get your feet tapping to its slow jam qualities, while the pristine, delicately processed vocals hang in the air like a whisper in the ear. Fantastic.
A quick look at the clock says we still have an entire hour left at this point. The best bits may well have passed, but there is still a heck of a lot left to enjoy. “These Streets Will Never Look The Same” is seen through the prism of distortion and androgyny, speaking of change and loss, applicable to everyone. Then quiet, shhh, “Broken Mirrors” follows it with its tiny, quiet synth and delicate glitch filled haze before finding its feet, building speed and volume before we return to sea level. It’s the perfect soundtrack piece, truly. While many other tracks touch on this, “Broken Mirrors” is the first to go all out and admit its origins.
The album begins to show its weaknesses more as time goes by, however. Ambient, instrumental interludes (“The Eleventh Hour”, “Dust To Dust”) show that Chromatics still has an excellent grasp on establishing and maintaining atmosphere through a variety of sounds, but it begins to feel tiresome and breaking up the pace set by the poppier tracks here makes it feel a bit stop-start and disjointed. On that note, “A Matter Of Time” almost feels ridiculous towards the end with its overbearing synth when heard in context, on its own however it sounds excellent. It marks the last synth pop lurch alongside the thoroughly forgettable “At Your Door” and the funky 80’s groove of “There’s A Light Out On The Horizon”; an emotionless voicemail sample tops it all off. Finally, the wistful “The River” and 14 minute glacial leviathan “No Escape” bring closure to this sweeping release. In some respects, it feels good to finally be finished and leave it behind, but part of me also wants to never have it end, to just keep going with it’s late 70’s/80’s vibe and sweeping, cinematic, idyllic vistas of sound.
There’s no question about it, Chromatics have done something special here. It’s not easy to see beyond the bloat – the goddamn scale of the damn thing is somewhat prohibitive – but if you can, and I urge you to do so, you’ll see just how beautiful this really is.