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Lo-Fi Album Review: "Vol. 1" by Chrome Waves

Karl is a longtime freelancer who's passionate about music, art, and writing.

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Overall Impressions

Chrome Waves’ Vol. 1 is a delicate, soothing and atmospheric lo-fi journey. It has an emotive, fragile feeling shot through with sunlight and touched by melancholy. There’s a tender and aching sensibility in the music that I find touching and warming.

The choice of instrumentation on Vol. 1 is a large part of what makes it so enjoyable for me. The mixture of distant piano drifting in trembling lines, jazz-inflected muted trumpet, round xylophone sounds and gentle synths add up to music that is soothing, expressive and touched by mournful emotions.

I also enjoy how Chrome Waves uses bass and percussion to anchor the music on the album. The melodies and harmonies feel airy and unmoored, but the throb and tick of the drums along with the active bass lines give those light elements a structure. The shaping influence of the drums and bass help create form and direction in the music.

This album has a wavering, trembling sensibility that imbues each track with a caressing, but pained feeling. Chrome Waves has woven together atmospheres of hazy sun, gentle rain and tentative melody that are touching and affecting as they unfold throughout the tracks.

My Favourite Tracks Analyzed

“Rights Of Passage” opens with distant crackling and a full, round synth instrument that shifts along with solid percussion. Lost-sounding piano notes repeat in an uneven pattern while the static crackle goes on behind them. A higher, string-like synth intertwines with the raised piano notes delicately floating over the more substantial pattern cutting in between the strings.

There’s a richness to the way the strings wind around the other parts as the solid, steady drumbeat anchors the other musical elements. After a brief, stuttering break the main melodic pattern re-establishes itself and fades away into quiet.

Static crackle is joined by wavering, drifting piano notes playing an aching melodic pattern to bring “Watch For Each Other” into being. The main melodic pattern sails out over the throbbing drums and a metallic clicking adds texture.

The piano has a mournful feeling over the drum heartbeat and the descending bass line. Smooth, wandering guitar carries a musical pattern which pleasingly deepens the music’s yearning feeling as it bends and twists at the end of each line. The piano floats along, tinged with sadness over the drums and bass as they pulsate.

"The Vortex” starts off with a hypnotic piano pulse and a ticking drum throb before the trembling piano wanders in, feeling broken and divided. A muted trumpet carries a mellow, jazzy melody over the steadily ticking beat that is joined by a brushing sound.

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The piano takes a slowly unfolding journey that adds a charming lightness to the music. All of the other musical elements fade away and the piano alone moves in stumbling steps over the ticking, tapping percussion. The trumpet’s warm tones carry a gently touching solo that glides out before the music returns to the divided, wandering piano before the track ends.

Piano chords repeat over a stutter of drums before the piano distantly carries an uplifting melody with a pained twist to open “The Bakerloo Part 2.” The melody repeats into the crackling around it and above the easy-going drums.

A segment in which the piano winds through its pattern minus the drums comes in, adding a pleasingly sparse feeling. An elevated, single note sounds and the main melodic pattern glides in again. The track slips along with the piano creating a trance-inducing feeling. Sparkling, shiny notes call out and the drums speed before we fall to silence.

“Night Rain” commences with the sound of rain falling and a round, xylophone instrument echoing out in deep, soothing notes. Muffled percussion ticks in and elevated notes shine in contrast to the drums while night noises add an enjoyably luscious feeling.

A slowly unfolding bass line adds angular shape to the fragile, caressing piano as it moves. The sound of summery, tropical rain fall continues as the hollow drums tick along in a laid-back beat. The piano hops and stutters before the warm, full xylophone drifts. A higher xylophone part interacts with the lower part in a bending distortion before silence falls.

Metallic chimes shimmer and a slightly dry sounding piano reverberates out in twisting notes to bring “Shadow In the Dark” to life. As birds sing, the twisting piano swirls over the throbbing bass and steadily shaping drums that add a solid pulse. I am drawn to the way that the piano is melancholy and tender and the birds sing along.

Drums and bass return to add shape to the music. A segment in which the drums stutter on alone with a sweeping sound that grits through before the distorted piano and tripping percussion move again. The piano line is doubled as it journeys through the music in an enfolding patten that also has a dreamy quality to it.

"King Street” also incorporates the sounds of nature along smoothly, easily repeating guitar that flows in with an even pulsation of drums and bass. The beats and bass add more form to the music along with a steady, slightly rough-edged bass line.

The guitar moves below the bright, abandoned-feeling piano as it flows above the tapping percussion elements and the solid bass shifts far underneath. There’s a record scratch to add a sharp sensation before the piano repeats its sunlit notes with more than a tinge of sadness within them. The mingled glow and ache is something I enjoy.

Conclusion

Vol 1. is an album that is soothing and emotive in equal measure. It allows me to glide on tides of tender, wandering sound that carry me away from the stress and worry of life while still remaining interesting to my ears.

© 2022 Karl Magi

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