“I feel like night has no beginning. I feel like night, it has no end.”
While the boogie-oogie disco beatmakers of the ’70s overstayed their welcome, a contingent of disco devotees continued on into the early ’80s to make sparse, moody affairs, mixing the more dark and dangerous parts of Giorgio Moroder with the evocative soundscapes of Italian soundtrack hero Ennio Morricone – disco for beyond the dance floor.
Producer Johnny Jewel has obviously studied the form. His work with both Glass Candy, and the Chromatics purely captures the dystopian brilliance of the Italo-disco genre and imbues it with languid sexuality. His disco is slow and plodding (proudly set at 107 bpm), evenly in line with the silence that surrounds the streets between the hours after the clubs close and when you set out for that walk of shame.
Fans of GSL-era Chromatics might be weary of the band's journey from dirty punk-rock noiseniks to their new euro-disco dalliances, but the transformation has been surprisingly seamless and completely earnest. The revamped line up of Ruth Radelet on vocals, Adam Miller on guitar and production/programming by Johnny Jewel, contributed three excellent tracks to last years After Dark compilation on the Italians Do It Better label, which served to spark renewed interest in the genre.
Following a string of singles, the band's first full length, The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the movie Night Drive (also known as Chromatics IV) is a subtle, yet well planned set up to an imaginary, (Dario) Argento-styled, horror film. The album starts with a telephone call. Amidst ambient street sounds, a woman calls her lover after coming out of the club. Small talk ensues and she agrees to meet him after she takes a drive, which leads the listener perfectly into the sonic narrative of the album's title track; it effortlessly mixes shimmering gothic guitar with a pulsating drum beat, the perfect match for the lightly excited palpitations of the heart that go along with a pending after-hours rendezvous.
The eerie and most appropriately named “The Killing Spree” brings forth the classic-sounding high-tone piano to signify something evil is on its way, before moving the story along and giving way to the post-punk guitar work on “Healer.”
Night Drive's attention to narrative detail is shown most readily by the choice to cover Kate Bush's “Running Up That Hill.” Long a fan favorite, the version here does little to stray from the original. Radelet's vocals are simultaneously enchanting and disinterested, while the synth swashes are warm and enveloping, adding to the unnatural calm of the song. The lyrics are eerily fitting as Radelet sings “There is thunder in our hearts, baby / So much hate for the ones we love? / Tell me, we both matter, don't we?” This is what she contemplates on this little “night drive” before popping in to curb her desires.
There is no actual film for Chromatics IV, yet the Chromatics have framed an album, such that by using intricate pacing – the icy cold distance of Radelet's breathy vocals and sexy, pulsating beats – you can picture each and every scene as if it were right before you on celluloid. So much great art has been formed in the dark and secretive recesses of our hearts, and you can add Night Drive to that list.