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CHROMB! - 1000 CD (album) cover

1000

CHROMB!

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.00 | 4 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars '1000' - CHROMB! (77/100)

I originally became acquainted with the work of the CHROMB! guys through a past project of theirs, PoiL. Dur et Doux, the longstanding collaboration of Léo Dumont and Camille Durieux ("Hard and Soft" in French-- a clever play on their surnames) never strays from whimsical avant-prog however, so I wouldn't have batted an eye if this had been marketed as the next PoiL album. Challengingly atonal arrangements and lowbrow Zappa-esque humour are going to be staples for this French collective for probably as long as they live. At the end of the day, this is the Rock in Opposition you might already love or hate, being brought into the 21st century. CHROMB! may not be quite as relevant as Univers Zero or another of their forebears, but their sound is every bit as tight and challenger to the undaunted listener.

Even if this is the first time I've heard of CHROMB!, there's been music released under the name at least since 2012. Their two albums before this were called I and II respectively. Calling their third album 1000 seems like a clever way for CHROMB! to jump the shark. What was IX supposed to sound like? What of the zealous fan cults that could have sprung if they had seen fit to release 487? While the overabundant humour in bands of this nature usually get on my nerves, I have to say that the way the Dur et Doux collective stand out most from their equally-proficient RIO peers is that the humour actually works. At least when it comes to the non-musical aspects of their work, from titles and lyrics to the aesthetic, they've got a way of tickling wit like few others in their class have managed. I still think I prefer the ultra-serious approach of bands like Shub-Niggurath and Univers Zero, but considering the bad Zappa humour is usually something I've struggled with in avant-prog, the success of CHROMB!'s whimsy is all to their credit.

After having been wowed by PoiL's maniacal tightness and avant-weirdness, I'm not surprised at all that CHROMB! enjoys the same merits. Despite all tongues-in-cheek, 1000 is very serious, formal- sounding music. Slower sections mess around with weird, uncomfortable harmonies; faster sections do the same while throwing in unpredictable times and ample space for the musicians to push themselves. I do think this sort of highly technical avant-prog went out of style around the time bands like The Mars Volta and Porcupine Tree usurped the prog mantle. Even so, it wouldn't be hard to see the RIO niche get bigger if bands like CHROMB! continue to outdo themselves in terms of their musicianship.

Even if 1000 can be summarized effectively by the whimsical avant-prog description, there's still a ton of variety in between. "Bonjoure" is a fantastic fast jam in dissonant RIO tradition. Martial basswork thunders below playfully anxious alto sax, wrapping up with near-perfect band tightness. They are able to flow from frantic material like that to warmer vocal sections, replete with choral harmonies at no cost to the general weirdness. It would be easy to dismiss CHROMB! as being weird for weirdness' sake. That theory overlooks how deceptively coherent 1000 is as a work. I've heard some similar avant-prog in the past few weeks that sounded almost painful in the way they would cram so much into an album without rhyme or reason. For CHROMB!, their "reason" is probably still to make people laugh and have fun as much as a SoCal pop-punk band, but make no mistake: CHROMB!'s silly charm and playfulness is backed up by a very real intelligence and direction. I really hope to hear more of this sort of stuff in the future.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |

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