Modern life is frantic, moving at a sickening pace. At times it can all feel a bit too much. Perhaps more than ever, people are in need of an escape, just a little bit of respite from the stresses that come with 21st century living. It may not have been their intention, but with ‘Closer to Grey’, Chromatics provide just that, and much more.
The group’s seventh studio record is pop for the widescreen, stacked with tracks that lift the listener outside of reality, dropping them headfirst into a future-noir daydream. As was the case with their previous two efforts (2009’s superb ‘Night Drive’ and 2012’s instant classic ‘Kill For Love’) on ‘Closer to Grey’ Chromatics take you on a journey, one full of love, loss and, perhaps most importantly, hope. Opener ‘Sound of Silence’ sets things off nicely.
Throughout their 18-year career the group have had a reputation for reworking pop classics to great effect, so it’s no surprise that they’ve knocked it out of the park yet again with this haunting reimagining of Simon and Garfunkel’s loner hit. Johnny Jewell’s icicle synths provide the perfect foil for Ruth Radelet’s soothing, almost ghostlike tones, creating a strangely unsettling, yet almost cosy atmosphere.
Title track ‘Closer to Grey’ continues this aural paradox. The song is a teenage joyride in slow motion. At first the project drives along with confidence, but before long a barrage of ice cold riffs drift in, putting adding an edge to the atmosphere. On the surface everything seems great, but deep down lurks a sense that something isn’t quite right.
This duel feeling of joy and impending doom is felt throughout the record, but none more so than on ‘Light as a Feather’. A subtly vicious hip-hop beat is thrown into the mix early doors, adding a new dimension to the group’s reverb heavy sound. Think Schoolly D having a scrap with Peaking Lights over a particularly nice piece of pie, and you won’t be far off understanding what the song is all about.
After this the record breaks into the darkness with delight. ‘Touch Red’’ and grand finale ‘Wishing Well’ are all about the whispered vocals, nostalgia-fuelled chimes and shattered hearts. Quite frankly, it’s glorious. When Chromatics are this on form they’re pretty much unstoppable.
With Closer to Grey, the group have created a near-perfect piece of 21st century pop escapism. So, the next time world’s weighing you down, you know what to do. Reach for your turntable. Chromatics have got your back.
Words: Jack Doherty
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