After New Wave played itself out and died in a crash of shrill synthesizers and trite beats, new groups arose from the ashes. Chromatics, the brainchild of Adam Miller, emerged to reclaim the inherently interesting combination of post-industrial grime and glistening urban shimmer.
In the early years, Chromatics skewed toward grinding noise rock with punk sympathies. After several lineup changes (including the addition of Johnny Jewel), the group put out the critically lauded Night Drive (2007), which polished the grime into dread-filled stones topped with a layer of spare dance pop. Night Drive plays out conceptually across a darkened horizon. With simple, driving beats, accented synths and full-bodied guitar hooks, the album feels like an extended chase scene from a mid-90s thriller. Which is to say, epic.
Throughout the band’s post-2007 catalog, there are sounds pointing toward an interesting parallel with more mainstream indie acts like Dirty Projectors, St. Vincent or Perfume Genius. There’s an edge without being hard, and there’s an eclecticism without seeming disorganized. In Night Drive and 2012’s Kill For Love, there are echoes of The Postal Service, just stripped down and drinking black coffee instead of espresso.
Although most listeners may not be able to recall a specific single from the band, Chromatics continue to pop up innocuously across the art scene, like “Tick Of the Clock,” from the 2011 film Drive starring Ryan Gosling (try listening to it without imagining yourself white-knuckling down an empty freeway in the dark). The band is also known for releasing several stellar covers, recently including Hole’s “Petals” for Netflix’s The Perfection. Neil Young’s “Into the Black” opens Kill For Love, getting an almost note-by-note recreation with appropriately atmospheric flourishes, giving it a soundscape feel – another nod toward the slow death of rock and roll contained in the song’s subject matter, ironic or not.
After a long hiatus, Chromatics are back on the road again, bringing their dance-and trance sounds to a potentially new audience. Join them, as they beckon you back out into a softer night.