CHROMATICS - MADAME JOJO’S
5TH JUNE 2012
Not yet emerging from the shadows of a stage still half draped in darkness, Johnny Jewel and Adam Miller man their stations whilst the pulsing tones of the introductory “Tick Of The Clock” announce their arrival and the imminent appearance on stage of vocalist Ruth Radelet. It’s ironic that this piece of music, an instrumental that originally appeared on Chromatics 2007’s release “Night Drive” should have been the one to break them to a wider audience via its inclusion on the soundtrack for the US film “Drive”. It’s an exceptional piece of movie music, but in no way does it make it special amongst a myriad of other gems that make up the Chromatics’ already extensive back catalogue, much of their best work never officially released.
Unnoticed by the masses, Chromatics have been giving their diamonds away for free on the internet for years, and some tracks, such as the first vocal track aired tonight, “Lady”, have undergone dramatic transformations since their first outings in tthe blogosphere. “Lady” like much of Chromatics’ later work, is a shimmery slo-mo disco, beckoning you into some seductive world the other side of the mirror, but there’s the hint that what lies on the other side might be deadly as well as delicious.
Chromatics’ work, even more than that of sister act Glass Candy, chimed in with the Italo disco influenced class of 2007, but neatly sidestepped the fruity clichés of the genre for something artier, and more soulful. Their vinyl releases are something else, prized as much for their beautiful packaging and artwork, as the tracks within. The somewhat tragic truth is, there is simply too much work coming out Johnny Jewel’s prolific studio to keep track of right now (the double ‘soundtrack’ album “Symmetry” being a case in point), and lots of their best work remains undiscovered, or on the peripheries of the internet.
A lengthy absence from UK venues ensures a packed house tonight, and Chromatics’ return sees a much improved live performance. Still a quieter counterpoint to the aerobics audacity of Glass Candy’s Ida, Ruth now seems calmer and more assured, where once she hesitated to project fully at Café 1001’s show in 2008. There’s also a newfound dose of joy about songs such as the (strangely mistitled) “Kill For Love”, possibly their poppiest track yet. Their entirely analogue groove machine (NO laptops here!) threatens to overload into a full on disco party towards the end of the show tonight, where older tracks such as “In The City” ramp up the bass driven pressure, and prompt an already rapt audience into some actual gyrations. Kate Bush’ classic “Running Up That Hill” is also encored, but its actually far from the highlight here, there are so many sublime moments already in Chromatics’ jewel box . Not really Italo, not quite traditional enough to be post-punk, and never ever ‘electroclash’, Chromatics will continue to weave their way around the 21st century soundscape in a more elliptical manner. Chromatics’ are first foremost a band, not a disco outfit, or studio project, and that really shows tonight. They look and sound the part, and that part is a modern revision on the death or glamour ideals of Studio 54 and New Wave with David Lynch directing the visuals.
Johnny Jewel’s other long term band, Glass Candy are back soon with “Body Work”, and if Chromatics’ album success is mirrored, as it surely will be, 2012 should see the Italians Do It Better label get even wider acclaim, way beyond Pitchfork, Dazed or the catwalk. Time to cash in those diamonds in the closet.