Chrome Canyon - Elemental Themes - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Chrome Canyon - Elemental Themes

by Rich Morris Rating:6 Release Date:2012-10-08

New York producer Chrome Canyon, AKA Morgan Z, made a name for himself remixing remixing the indie-dance likes of Passion Pit, Phoenix and Foster the People and now unfurls his debut. The surprise is that Elemental Themes sounds nothing like those bands listed above. Instead, you can slot this record alongside Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, Jean Michel Jarre and Ozric Tentacles. That's right - Elemental Themes is very much an album of noodly, synthy head music and damn proud to be so.

But is it any good? Well, it's hard to claim it's an essential record, even if music of this type routinely makes you wet your knickers (I'm cautiously raising my hand here). The likes of 'Sacred Mountain' and 'Pluze' are retro, cosmic synth odysseys without adding anything new. Christ, even the names of these tracks tell you exactly the genre, era and culture Chrome Canyon is evoking.

So we range from the proggy cosmic rock of 'Beginnings' to 'Memories of a Scientist', which sounds like the kind of lovably daft Euro-synth-pop oddity which would occasionally crop up on Top of the Pops before synth-weilding became a new pop essential. At times, things get just a little unbearably cheesy; witness the syrupy vintage Moog sounds of the aptly-named 'Signs from the Old World'. I mean, in isolation it's not too bad, but when plonked in the middle of a whole album of gloopy, mid-pace, archaic synth workouts... It really is just trop de choses.

But then you get 'Car Fire on the Highway' which, after an opening plinky-plonk fanfare, resolves itself into what can only be described as a 70s synth-soul remake of Godspeed You Black Emperor!'s 'The Dead Flag Blues', complete with ominous, bassy monologue. And bloody great it is too. The following 'Who Speaks for Earth' is equally fine and actually quite modern-sounding. You could even mistake it for something post-dubsteppy. The title track, meanwhile, adds some agitated, mournful sax to the mix, conjuring images of Low-era Bowie jamming with Wendy Carlos. Which is, obviously, insanely thrilling.

A few more moments such as this really wouldn't have gone amiss. The things is, much as I love this kind of music, if I want to listen to some classic, synthy, proggy psychedelia that's precisely what I'll do. When I encounter something recorded in the 21st century, while evidence of these influences is more than welcome, I'd like hear the musician doing something new with the technology s/he has to hand. Same reason why, if I want to hear a band who sound just The Smiths or The Velvet Underground, I'll just go and listen to those bloody bands!

Anyway, ranting aside, apart from slavish copyism, the other thing wrong with Elemental Themes is that it's very one-pace and over-long to boot. The majority of tracks are variations on the same theme and, frankly, you don't need to sit through the whole album to get everything it has to offer. Elemental Themes would have made a fantastic EP or mini-album packed with very strong material. As it is, it manages to confirm to that other cliché of 70s cosmic rock: being bloated and self-indulgent.

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