Chromb! - II

6 songs
29:51 minutes
***** ****


In times where many bands don’t even try anymore to find their own sound, it is a feeling of bliss to come across someone like Chromb!, a four-piece from somewhere around Lyon in France. They describe their music as some kind of chamber music, but once you read their influences (The Residents, King Crimson, John Zorn, Melt Banana,...), you know that there must be more to them. And indeed there is!

Their second album may only have one major flaw, and that is its too short length of just a mere half hour. Apart from that, things couldn’t be brighter. The first and possibly most striking fact about Chromb! is the fact that they don’t have a guitarist. Instead they play saxophones, synthesizers, bass, drums and a lot of effects, with one lead and two backing vocalists. But the album starts with the instrumental Monsieur Costume, a four and a half minute piece beginning like classical chamber music, but don’t let yourself be mistaken, because that’s just one side of the band. One and a half minute into the song, and the quartet is proving that you really don’t need a guitar to be rocking like crazy. The synthesizers are like a floating carpet of insanity, recalling mid-period Shining, while the rhythm section couldn’t be any busier. The saxophone takes over the lead, and while it is not as abrasively harsh as that of John Zorn, it is still disharmonic enough to provide enough grating pleasure. This is what I call a great way to start an album. The following Le Colis is a vocal track, and would you believe it, even better than what came before. Once again the piano starts in a classical way, but this time it takes even less time for the band to find their pace and deliver a progressive punk, or should I say: prunk, that that the Cardiacs would have been proud of. The vocals are high and hysterical, and add a sense of humour that matches the overall frantic manner of the music. Despite its elevated tempo, this track is still five minutes long, and full of funny ideas, like really disharmonic effects, fast piano movements and a rousing piano led part where the entire band joins in.

Il Dansait La Chance is another instrumental, six minutes long, a slightly more sedated track that uses its more moderate pace to infuse a lot of effects (echo, reverb) to give the composition a certain dubby/trippy sound. The saxophone plays a stronger role this time, giving the sound a jazzier feeling, although there is still plenty of tomfoolery around. La Saulce could be considered the album’s magnum opus, as it is the only track longer than eight minutes. It has a freer feeling, like a well-rehearsed jam session, and builds up from a lethargic intro over a druggy electro part into wild and freewheeling noise punk. Once again Chromb! show that they cram more ideas into one song than other bands can come up with during their entire career. The next song has a really long title (Au Milieu Des Décombres Fumantes, Un Bâton Planté Dans Le Sol Qui Semblait Vouloir Dire "Pourquoi?"), but is only two minutes long. This short instrumental is the only time where Chromb! are actually pure proponents of chamber music. While this miniature is piano driven, the other band members also have some room to add melancholic sax melodies, bass solos and drum parts with shattering cymbals. The concluding À Fond De Chien is a fast and shortish track more typical of what preceded. The vocals are again trademark hysteria with pleasant parallels to the Cardiacs.

So yes, there is the progressive experimentation of King Crimson, the free jazz inferno of John Zorn, the mystical weirdness of the Residents, the dark world of Zeuhl of Magma even, but in the end, Chromb! have managed to find their very own style. This is crazy music for adventurous people, and once you made it on that journey, you either come back bat-shit crazy, or in a state of total bliss. I chose the latter, and hope to hear much more from these four crazy French dudes in the future.

Back to Reviews