Chromatics – Running From The Sun (EP/Mixtape, 2012)

Johnny Jewel dropped on Soundcloud just a few days ago 9 unreleased tracks produced while recent LP Kill For Love was taking shape but were never incorporated into the album. Among the 9 are 3 previously unheard versions of tracks from the album; “Kill For Love”, “Running From The Sun” and “These Streets Will Never Look The Same”.

The vibe of Running From The Sun is somewhat different to that of Kill For Love; Jewel himself admitted these were mostly sketches, tracks born in the evenings after long, gruelling days in the studio fine tuning the full-length before blending them together fuelled by insomnia after his Paris show. While KFL did itself come across as a post-party, night drive home kind of album this EP takes that feeling to new heights,  an altogether darker entity with melodies even further stripped back, removing lighter extraneous elements like the sparkling, crystalline synths riffs that were so pervasive in the LP.

This is not immediately obvious in opener “Dreaming In Colour” but it serves as a good introduction to the Chromatics sound with its soft vocal coos lulling us and drawing us in, Ruth Radelet hypnotising our ears before dishing out some meaty, dark dream pop. “Red Car” is where the drive really begins, where we leave the city and street lights behind and head out onto the open road.

The alternate mix of “Kill For Love” picks things up a little, and I love it. I mean the one I’m familiar with is gorgeous as hell but this is arguably better, removing the powerful drum track and dialling down the strong synths and replacing them with a fuzzier, smoother and less invasive version that just…glides along effortlessly. Those rich vocals are really allowed to come to the fore and it just seems a lot more easygoing. “Last Wish” is basically a three minute interlude (only Chromatics), but it serves as a good bridge with its creeping guitars and pattering percussive beats, like driving over cats-eyes, into another KFL rework, “Running From The Sun”. Again I much, much prefer this over the album version; I was never mad on this one originally because I thought the piano and the vocoder clashed a bit, especially with the cheesy synth overtones towards the end, but this works much better. It’s significantly more melancholy this way, as I think it should be.

Heartbreak ensues in the painful “Disintegration”, rolling in on a sea of unidentifiable electronic drones, shimmering and twirling before coalescing into more coherent, delicate piano. The air is light but resigned as it moves into our final rework “These Streets Will Never Look The Same”. It reminds me of the version on the Drumless EP of alternative tracks from the LP just with their drum tracks removed; having the beats stripped back reveals this 8 minute piece for what it is; a downtrodden, downright miserable work that the vocoder only masks, providing a sense of anonymity by dehumanising the voice behind it but fundamentally keeping the emotional resonance in place through the lyrics and the occasional waver. About half way through the piano falls away briefly, forcing the repeated lyrics to hang in the air unsupported for a few moments:

“The screams stay flashing in my mind”

Chromatics have also been known on multiple occasions to provide versions of older tracks in their own style (like their remix of Kate Bush’s classic “Running Up That Hill”) and for the closer we see Ruth singing “Blue Moon” in classic Chromatics style; dripping in an analogue fuzz like a worn record, the vocals are lightly reverbed and all but alone in this old soundscape, accompanied only by the quietest of synth drones. And that’s it. It spins out slowly and softly, leaving naught but a lightly crackling silence and then nothing as the last second plays out.

Wow, that’s a lot of words for what is just a casual (and free!) mixtape. Having heard this though I really wish that Chromatics had continued down the darker, more restrained vibe this EP creates. While I loved the beats and synth wankery of Kill For Love I’m enjoying hearing Jewel take the songs back further, right down to their night-drenched roots.