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Albums of 2012 – 8. Chromatics – ‘Kill For Love’

For those wondering, this isn’t the soundtrack to Drive – though on an aesthetic level it may as well be. Kill For Love, the hour and a half behemoth of an album five years in the making, follows the aborted soundtrack that Johnny Jewel – mastermind behind Chromatics – was originally commissioned to create for the very same motion picture. He asserts that this record isn’t simply the shelved soundtrack, and there’s every reason to believe him; this is entirely engaging music, completely independent from visual stimuli and instead conjuring up its very own.

The record benefits from a breadth of style only rivalled by its length. Traditional pop melodies are given an 80s-influenced reverie as in the title track, a sugar-rush of arpeggiating synths and lightly sprinkled guitars that juxtaposes its more sinister lyrical undertones. Yet, for every continuation of the trademark Italians Do It Better label sound there is an equally arresting ambient, instrumental piece. The synthwork in these instances almost always focuses on displays of gentle and gradual layering (much like the earlier works of M83), however no two moments sound the same. Indeed, from the slow build of Broken Mirrors to the post-apocalyptic drone of Dust to Dust, each piece offers its own distinct pace, rhythm and texture, while still uniformly intensifying the dramatic effect and propelling the narrative forward.

A middle ground between the ambient and electro-pop tropes is presented in the shape of standout track These Streets Will Never Look the Same, an almost-nine minute mid-tempo dance number that takes the epic charge of a song such as Eye of the Tiger (to which the guitar riffs bear an uncanny resemblance) and gives it an Italo-disco overhaul. It’s also one of two tracks that feature vocoders – the most original and successful use of which since Kanye West’s Runaway. Chromatics also feed their reputation for brave and diverse covers (their 2007 cover of Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill comes highly recommended) with a moody take on Neil Young’s Into The Black, repurposing it as an appropriate prologue through the ever-pensive vocal delivery of Ruth Radelet.

Throughout its running time, Kill for Love practically begs to be played in the brooding, atmospheric environments it so precisely endeavours to create. In fact, when you’re next on a late night drive, the only car on the road and with miles to go, stick this album on and pretend you’re Ryan Gosling – it makes for an epic trip.

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