It’s hard for me not to associate this new Chromatics album with the film Drive, in whose soundtrack their song “Tick of the Clock” appropriately appeared. For Drive was art house at its most friendly and accessible, a stand-out drama as much an experience to watch as it was to dissect afterwards. Kill for Love evokes the same sort of reaction, one of pertinence and presence each step of the way, until finally breaking apart into a series of emotional memories. Every track is a piece of the journey, one whose focus may be occasionally fragmented thanks to an uncertain narrative, but nevertheless it remains a journey of stalwart reflection.
Kill for Love is quite the lengthy achievement though for Chromatics, understandable as their last full-length came out half a decade ago. This is both a positive and a negative, as gems of songs are scattered throughout for repetitive listeners, though one full run-through may leave one emotionally exhausted. The beats our heavy, the melodies sufficiently subtle to the point of being haunting, and the synthetic landscape a manifestation of heart-felt emotional resonance. Later track “A Matter of Time” explores a repetitive treble timbre for its main percussion, drawing strength from various mid-to-low-range riffs and simplistic drum-work to express character amid the passing of time. Yet the title track weighs in differently, letting muted synth underlie Ruth Radelet’s hypnotizing vocals, until clearer guitars break through to embody a well-executed buildup.
The star here is undeniably Chromatics’ expertise in the realm of electronic composition. Their ability to slow things down changes what could be a selection of dance tracks into a symphony of dramatic moments and delayed gratification. Excellent tracks like “Lady,” “At Your Door,” and a cover of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey My My (Into the Black)” will keep you coming back for more, each one different from the rest but a stirring member of the whole. Even ”These Steets Will Never Look the Same,” nearly nine minutes long, has a compelling quality to it which turns its redundant nature into a experience all its own.
What you get out of Kill for Love though is fairly proportional to how much you enjoy worlds like the one seen in Drive. For although the overall scope and message may get lost in the fuzzy design, at the end the aesthetics ring strong and true. There are a few okay tracks of course, “Broken Mirrors” winding up a bit dull and “The River” not nearly as engaging as most of the album’s other offerings. Finale “No Escape” is an isolating fourteen minutes, which to some will be beyond the line of artistic necessity but for the few will perfectly embody an explored life. It’s one of the weaker tracks due in part to uncomfortable high-pitched ringing and an uncertain direction, but at least its intentions are somewhat discernible.
Kill for Love is one of the better albums this year so far, and ultimately achieves my seal of approval. If you have an affinity for well-crafted electronic/synth music with an 80′s vibe and the understated nature of, say, The Xx, then you’ll find a lot to love from Chromatics. Take a good listen here to “Kill for Love,” and make sure to check them out off of their fantastically named label, Italians do it Better.