Take the first single, "Annie's Song." Like most Shogun Audio singles, it's a vocal tune, but Depauw isn't just strapping a singer to a drum & bass beat. From its broken glass arpeggios to orchestral pomp (and especially Sam Wills' Jodeci-esque vocal) it's a killer R&B song. And, like most of the album, it sits at a halftime drum & bass tempo without letting you realize it—there's an unusual amount of breathing room for 85 BPM. Chroma Chords is full of this ingenious engineering, welding genres and sounds together with a gorgeous sheen that's glossy but never distracting. From the glitch-hop of "Crystals" to the liquid drum & bass of "Playing Games," every sound seems to sparkle.
There are definite forebears to Chroma Chords' style of sound design—the monolithic stomp of Eskmo and the subaquatic rave pressure of EPROM feel especially relevant—but his maturing ear for pop glues it all together. "Broken Heart," featuring PMR's Two Inch Punch, centers around a vocal sample that's the heart of Burial's "Distant Lights." Depauw's treatment of it—regal and almost angelic—is enough to make it sound new. The hit-you-over-the-head stuff works well, too: the trap elements on "Move Aside" pan widescreen, and "Villains 1 Heroes 0" is the rare drum & bass rap track that sounds truly menacing.
Not every moment is perfect: the ornate "We Could Have Been" feels like Calibre-lite, and "YDK" pivots awkwardly on an off-key Weeknd sample. As a whole, however, Chroma Chords is a pleasure. It's sequenced like a pop album, with Depauw trying out everything he can. Like a drum & bass Odessey And Oracle, it shows major growth and ballsy courage all at once.
Mon / 24 Jun 2013
02. Broken Heart feat. Two Inch Punch
03. Playing Games feat. D.Ablo
04. Annie's Song feat. Sam Wills
05. Chroma Chords
06. Move Aside feat. Foreign Beggars
07. Warlord feat. Riko Dan
09. We Could Have Been feat. D.Ablo
10. Villains 1 x Heroes 0 feat. They Call Me Raptor
11. The End Of Us feat. Sam Wills
12. Monolith feat. Foreign Beggars & Jehst