The first half of this year was full of extraordinary music releases, and the name that signs this one is a synonym of quality. For those of you that may not be familiar with Chroma’s work, the huge range of styles and emotions he’s capable to express through music have not only been translated into an astonishing combination of techniques, but also into a distinctive fusion of sounds and an incomparable ability to tell stories. Of course, all of this in the form a huge catalog of compositions. All the tracks contained in this album are charged with a strong sense of consistency and are sharpened enough to work along with each other or on its own. So let’s take a look over Chroma’s first full-length album: ‘愛を喜ぶ街’ (Ai wo Yorokobu no Machi – ‘The Town that Enjoys Love’), released through not records.
Before we delve into this delightful piece of work I want to talk about a little detail that makes this album extra special: this material was released as a two-disc issue. What we are going to hear is part of disc one, downloadable on Bandcamp and available in other streaming services. Disc two is a CD-ROM that contains a puzzle game named ‘夢を叶える機械’ (Yume wo Kanaeru Kikai – ‘The Machine that Makes Dreams Come True’), which was illustrated, scored and sound-designed by Chroma himself – available for purchase on Bandcamp and Amazon Japan (among others). The game also serves a prologue/prequel to ‘愛を喜ぶ街’, the album in question, which I think is a remarkable sign of commitment and dedication to the project.
Ok, once that’s said, let’s proceed.
‘僕があなたの鐘になる’ (Boku ga Anata no Kane ni Naru – ‘I’ll Become Your Bell’) is a masterclass on musical architecture. The thriving combination of sounds is displayed as an explosion of color and excitement that perfectly defines each section, constraining itself to finally discharge all that energy showing how far it can go. The upbeat character is, from time to time and frankly, spellbinding. All the hope and enthusiasm sprinkled over this song is wonderful, with a especial remark on how all the parts interact organically and in a common voice, like if they were cheering. All of this made possible thanks to the balance in the structure and a harmonious sequence, truly enjoyable.
A little bit aggressive and with a steady rhythm is how ‘幻妖列車の旅’ (Genyō Ressha no Tabi – ‘Phantom Train Trip’) makes its way to the listener’s ears. The catchy motif dances over the strong drum groove making a really descriptive scene. It’s startling to listen to how the drum part is in constant development, changing the perception of speed, the depth, and even the tone through a masterful layering. The percussion breaks and the perfectly placed drum rolls give to the song the freshness that it exudes; nothing less than the walking example of how an interlocking groove can make a song to feel vigorous, assertive – alive. It’s like look over the window of a train car on movement and see how the scenery changes as the car cross over the clacking rail track.
This little piece is gentle and straightforward. The resonant notes flow in a cascade of emotion; one after one falling tenderly making echo of the previous one, drilling into the silence with surgical precision. As the sound pours and slowly floods the ambience an intense feeling takes over the listener. It’s inevitable to try to find out where this familiar sensation comes from. The way the melody evolves, at times, feels like if it was making an attempt to reach something with a slight touch of desperation, like if that something wasn’t there, like if it that sequence of notes just brought a vivid memory of it. Could it be a Madeline de Proust? No, it’s more like a konpeitō made of memories.
Beyond it’s explicitly stated in the lyrics, this is kind of a wintery song. The light instrumentation exposing the theme at the beginning puts the cornerstone to build on a solid composition. In the short period of time in which a tambourine and a clap are added to open the path for the vocals to enter, the first hints of a wintry weather aura are subtly introduced. As the vocals appear the whole atmosphere becomes warmer, featuring a meticulous work in the bass, drums, and percussions that helps to bring in some texture and variety at the time it acts as a highlight to the structure, especially – and magnifically – on the chorus. The tasteful addition and selection of every single one of the tiny elements that boost the tone reach the highest point when the mass of sound embraces the listener in a mild hug every time the chorus is repeated.
Even when at a first listen the singing part could seem a little bit flat, as the track moves forward the true quality of the vocal capacity of Chroma demonstrates that there’s not such a thing. Regarding the lyrics, I can’t say much as my knowledge of the language is not enough to fully comprehend them, but I really like the last lines of the song:
[If I (unintentionally) forget about everything because of (seeing) your face
Even the cold, cold winter will be warm – Or something like that. Traduttore, traditore. ]
This is just a little sneak peek of what you can find in this album: a wonderful adventure that will take us through the shades of a trip, going from the uplifting to the harsh side; making use of lovely melodies to faithfully describe the journey. This album also features remixes by YMCK and Kamome Sano. I sincerely hope that, at least once, we all can find ourselves with an unknown path in front of our feet that lead us to that wonderful place that Chroma describes.
Thank you so much for reading, see you next time!