I’m perched on the other side of hype and staring down Kill For Love’s long, magenta vista. It’s always an interesting trip when you take your time, the discourse slowing down, the songs still hanging like luminescent specks in the ever-increasing void. Honestly I’ve never read a thing about this record, and I’ve never regarded Chromatics as anything permanent. The hushed, snowy, bittersweet title-track captured plenty of imaginations, but it rolled right off my back – but I’d be lying if I said the numbers here, here, and here didn’t raise an eyebrow. But what can I say? Sleepy, long-drawn synthpop built for deep-breaths and opinion-making? But now, under this twinkling, reverberating hood, the reverence is rightfully inches from my face.
Chromatics is an eccentric group of Portlanders lead by the relentlessly idiosyncratic Johnny Jewel – but generally only breathlessly celebrated within a very specific group of scenesters. It takes a very secluded group of people to geek out over 90-minutes of microscopic electro-twinkles punctuated with the occasional stab of dance-pop fuzz, but you can certainly find them en masse if you go to the right house shows. But please, they’re just the predisposed-- don’t get girded for an adventure beyond the ultraworld-- Kill For Love is a quiet trip. Grand Artistic Statement? Nah, think more like Grand Artistic Density, or a Grand Artistic Slope into a Grand Artistic Perpetual-Motion-Machine. This is a record that takes up all the empty space in the room; the gaps between your teeth, the light peaking through the blinds – rarely do laptop-speakers make the walls turn scarlet.
You could harp on the melodies, compose breathless sycophancy for the laser-precision sun-rays of “Back From The Grave” or the gentle robotics throbbing through “Candy,” but for all that sugar, this is an album about the long stretches of pinkish sonic dust between the landmarks. Kill For Love is a mood piece, heavy on the atmosphere and light on the storyline. It’s the only album I can think of where the so-called limp, ambient passages rack up more revisits than the sparkling hooks. It’s just so much nicer to dwell in the eternal twilight of the eight-minute kaleidoscope “These Streets Will Never Be The Same,” or the caramelized, ping-pong pervasiveness trapped in the five-minute “A Matter of Time.”
Seldom does something articulate moonstruck mystery quite so wonderfully. There’s deep wonder to this music, majestic and sinister – otherworldly, barren, but often teeming with life just below. It gets tangled with the air, like it’s taking up physical space. The closest cousin is Music Has The Right to Children, the way it crowds our ears, beckoning for euphoria or anxiety. Kill For Love is one of those rare records that invades our very atmosphere.
Frankly it’s a really difficult thing to write about. Chromatics is working through the deep subconscious – indoctrinating, mesmerizing and tranquilizing. It’s an album that eschews classification or concrete-details and turns music writers into mushy, faux-philosophic softies, but you often feel swollen on the other end of singular experiences. What I can say is that the ever-increasing glut of mp3s, soundclouds, and Spotify-streams look very, very silly after a thoughtful afternoon with Kill For Love. It’s the kind of magnetic work that makes everyone else look off their game. Its power and poise never ceases for 90 wonderful minutes. It’s infinity trapped inside a record-sleeve, never has the world ended so tenderly.