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Kill for Love


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  • It took nearly five years for Chromatics to follow up 2007's acclaimed Night Drive (an expanded, analog-remastered edition of which appeared in 2010). Despite that interval -- and unlike any previous full-length under the volatile Chromatics banner -- Kill for Love is very much an extension of the sound and approach of its predecessor. It also runs nearly 92 minutes in its full digital version (only 78 in physical formats, with space limitations necessitating the omission of epic ambient closer "No Escape"). That's quite a lot of music, even if you've been waiting half a decade for it, but it feels entirely warranted, if not flat-out necessary in this case, because this is torpid, achingly gradual music that requires time and patience to achieve its fullest impact -- and because this is the kind of album you don't so much listen to as live inside while it's playing. Anyone familiar with Night Drive or the other Italians Do It Better-associated projects of Chromatics' prime aesthetic mover Johnny Jewel (Glass Candy, Desire, Symmetry) can probably intuit what's in store here: atmospheric, deeply stylish aural landscapes in pop song silhouettes, and darkly glistening electronic "pop" infused with post-punk's steely, nihilistic ennui. Kill for Love feels in many ways like an ultimate, quintessential expression of this aesthetic, in part because it creates a properly expansive context, and also because not a minute is wasted --?it maintains an impressively high level of quality and and emotional resonance throughout -- but particularly in how it blurs the distinction between "proper" songs and the sort of moody, cinematic instrumental (or nearly instrumental) pieces which form the bulk of the album's latter half almost to the point of irrelevance. One corollary to this is that the more overtly pop moments, clustered in the first third, here don't quite "pop" like they could -- with slightly different production choices, songs like "Lady" and the title track might be instant synth pop earworms; here, draped in haze and analog crackle, they're shyer to reveal their charms, though Ruth Radelet's hushed, mournful melodies do seep in and grow addictive with repeated listens. Contrasting Radelet's glassy-eyed clarity, a heavily processed male voice takes over on the brooding "Streets Will Never Look the Same" and "Running from the Sun," recalling the bleary, washed-out vibe of Sweden's Radio Dept. Once again, Chromatics use a cover song in a pivotal role here, opening the record with a stripped-down, deadpan take on Neil Young's "Hey Hey My My," dubbed "Into the Black" (although it's closer in tone to Young's more somber "Out of the Blue" acoustic version) -- it's a strange, almost anti-hip choice, and somewhat inscrutable as an opener, but as with just about everything else here, it is inarguably effective, and starkly beautiful in its simplicity. ~ K. Ross Hoffman
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