The first CD on the Italians Do It Better label, After Dark, was a low-level success story, a compilation that began as a limited tour-only release but ended up getting full distribution as the good word spread. What it offered was a glimpse of a potentially fruitful new microscene of seductive, icily-glam electronic disco. After a trio of excellent and beautiful looking twelve inches, Night Drive is the label’s first artist album: ten tracks of largely song-based American takes on dreamlike, sensual Euro-disco.
Really there’s nothing surprising in the ingredients here—the sleepwalking arpeggiated bass, frictionless nightglide synthesiser pads and rhinestone spatter of glittering high-end piano—and it could easily become sickly pastiche if the production—by Chromatics and Glass Candy member Johnny Jewel—didn’t pay such low-level attention to discotexture and if the songs weren’t able to subtly insinuate themselves with the straightest of faces.
Ruth Radelet’s breathy vocals on Night Drive are double-tracked like visible breath in crisp air, hanging over a picked guitar melody and frosted glass synths that gesture at gloss whilst retaining dancefloor grit. This is a slow album but the tracks pulse and percolate constantly, echoed piano spinning around a voice that has to sound disaffected in order to keep overwhelming emotion at bay. After a translucent cover of Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’—as if the 1985 track was covered by an Italo producer of the time—and the horror film ambience of ‘The Killing Spree’ things get darker. ‘Healer’ sets “lampshades doused in gasoline” aflame over post-punk guitar. On ‘Mask’ bouncing narco bass circles twittering guitar stabs and incessant synth.
Chromatics turn the night into a woozy slow-mo disco ball twirl, and the titles say it all really: ‘Tomorrow Is So Far Away’, ‘Let’s Make This Moment A Moment To Remember’. The culmination is ‘Tick Of The Clock’, a quarter of an hour slowed almost to a stop. A flanged beat box ticks and a dense howl of organ chords crawls over vinyl crackle until eventually nothing is left but a slowly reverberating bassline. The night is over. After leaving the nightclub, the chill of the morning air is refreshing but still sends a shiver down the spine.
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Tracklist: Chromatics - Night Drive01 The Telephone Call
02 Night Drive
03 I Want Your Love
04 Running Up That Hill
05 The Killing Spree
08 Tomorrow Is So Far Away
09 Let’s Make This Moment A Moment To Remember
10 Tick Of The Clock