“Shadow,” the new Chromatics song released Tuesday via Adult Swim, is an ethereal slow-burner that wouldn’t be out of place on a Julee Cruise record.
Like Cruise’s work with Angelo Badalamenti and David Lynch, a collaboration that most famously yielded several songs featured on Twin Peaks, including its theme, “Shadow” is at its core a particularly spacey shade of dream pop.
Singer Ruth Radelet’s hushed vocals, Johnny Jewel’s haunting synthesizers, and guitarist Adam Miller’s chiming sprinkles all float in a sacred suspension in the mix. It’s like they’re trapped in some colloidal gel that connects all things, a harmony that could only be upset if Nat Walker’s pulsating drum support were to suddenly falter.
But also like the work of the Lynchian trio, Chromatics tap into the emotive major-minor chord-progression alternations that the original rock ‘n’ roll bands of the 1950s and 60s would use in their songs about life’s interpersonal dramatics.
Overall, it’s a warm and pleasant combination that manages to keep Chromatics’ quintessential icy detachment.
Since their rebirth as a dark disco/synth-pop outfit nearly 10 years ago, Chromatics have always put out haunting works with a lot of space in them. Therefore, dream pop has always played a key role in their work in some respect — even if only as a dressing — but only on “Shadow” has the exercise been so pronounced.
The other Dear Tommy singles released earlier this year haven’t been so overt in their respect for Badalamenti, but they and “Shadow” all show a certain shift in the approach Jewel is taking with the upcoming album: There’s more Ride, more Lynch, more M83, more Sade and less Dark Day, less New Order, less Italo and less John Carpenter. Of course, once the record comes out maybe my assessment will be proven wrong. I’m not so sure of that, though. We’ll have to see.
(Note: If you’re interested, or need a reminder, Jewel posted the 8-track demo of “Shadow” on his SoundCloud page last year. It’s somewhat different from the single version. Check it out.)