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9 March 2011

Chrome - 'Alien Soundtracks' (Siren)

As the title suggests this is a blast from another world, a discordant slicing array of metallic textures and primal songforms that somehow sounds of its time despite having no peers. It's home recording-style song construction, with searing feedback guitars mixed low and weird monotonous percussion which sometimes attains genius, particularly on 'Nova Feedback', which has an almost jazz-guitar tone and a somewhat prog riff. Sometimes you can't tell if it's badly-played violin or a weird guitar texture, and everything is balanced so well nothing fights the frontal role. It's an easy record to lose yourself in, for while all of the elements are obvious, there's something about the way it all attenuates into the mix. There's sci-fi allusions everywhere (from the title, band name, and 'Baradas nicto' scrawled on the liner notes, which I guess is a paraphrase of The Day the Earth Stood Still, plus lyrical detachment in tunes like 'Slip It To the Android'); yet occasionally, there's something associative in Helios Creed's singing; a surreal escapade in 'All Data Lost' or 'Phraoah Chromium's confused sexuality and claustrophobia. Guitars are still the root of the Chrome sound, even if they're more focused on texture than riff. The modulated vocal style, especially on tunes like 'Pygmies in Zee Park', sorta sounds like Bowie and should have glam associations, but there's something too bastardised about the Chrome sound to pull things that way. Chrome never really quite fit into the punk lineage and the music is more akin to psychedelia anyway (listen to the blues-thrust of 'Pharaoah Chromium', for examps, or 'St 37' which is like a lost Malcolm Mooney-era Can track), but there's also a swagger and attitude that is unmistakably snide. I find myself listening to this record very rarely even though it's kinda revelatory whenever I do.

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