Tag: Johnny Jewel (Page 1 of 2)

CHROMATICS Teacher

In Autumn 2019, CHROMATICS broke a seven year silence between albums with the release of ‘Closer To Grey’.

However, scrutiny revealed ‘Closer To Grey’ to have a ‘VII’ subtitle in blood red on the artwork, despite it being their sixth long player. That was because an album called ‘Dear Tommy’ had been announced in 2015 and yet to be released as album number six.

Legend has it that producer and Italians Do It Better head honcho Johnny Jewel decided he wasn’t happy with the record, so destroyed all 15,000 CDs and 10,000 vinyl copies that had already been pressed.

One record that suffered a similar fate was ‘Techno Pop’ by KRAFTWERK which was actually advertised in the German press in 1983 before being delayed and reworked. It was then released as the disappointing ‘Electric Café’ in 1986 with some additional new tracks, while its original lead single ‘Tour De France’ was omitted. Then in a bizarre revisionist twist, it was remastered and renamed ‘Techno Pop’ with a slightly amended tracklist in 2009!

The ‘Dear Tommy’ saga has become much talked about by observers and fans with speculation rife that it had been shelved. But in the interim, the quartet of Johnny Jewel, Ruth Radelet, Adam Miller and Nat Walker have continued to release singles while also touring the world.

The ‘Dear Tommy’ announcement has been trailed by a purple hazed video for a great new airy synth driven song entitled ‘Teacher’, of which Johnny Jewel says “The apple obscured in fog is enigmatic & open to the interpretation of the viewer. Are we sinking into the unknown or rising from beyond the grave?”

As with KRAFTWERK, the original ‘Dear Tommy’ lead single ‘Shadow’ has now been dropped from the revised tracklist having become ubiquitous, thanks to its inclusion’ in ‘Twin Peaks: Revisited’; also missing are ‘Cherry’, ‘Camera’, ‘In Films’ and ‘I Can Never Be Myself When You’re Around’ which have all now been previously released in one form or another.

But included are the previous singles ‘Time Rider’ and ‘Just Like You’, while many of the eighteen tracks announced appear to be completely new with only a few like ‘Fresh Blood’, ‘She Says’, ‘Endless Sleep’ and the title track remaining from the original ‘Dear Tommy’.

A release date for ‘Dear Tommy’ has yet to be confirmed so this saga could go on. However with so much expectation, this album is in danger of underwhelming audiences like ‘Electric Café’ did. With that in mind, it therefore something of a strange coincidence that CHROMATICS and KRAFTWERK had both been due to perform on the same bill at London’s All Points East festival in May.


‘Teacher’ is released by Italians Do It Better via the usual digital outlets

https://italiansdoitbetter.com/chromatics/

https://www.facebook.com/CHROMATICSBAND/

https://twitter.com/chromatics

https://www.instagram.com/chromaticsmusic/

https://twitter.com/idib

https://www.instagram.com/italiansdoitbetter/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
22nd April 2020

CHROMATICS, DESIRE + DOUBLE MIXTE Live in London

It may have been ‘Double Exposure’ but the Italians Do It Better triple bill at The Roundhouse in London was a conceptual artistic triumph from the bottom up.

Headlined by CHROMATICS, the line-up also included their label mates DESIRE and DOUBLE MIXTE with all three acts having the multi-instrumentalist, producer and IDIB head honcho Johnny Jewel in common.

From the moment the audience entered The Roundhouse under hazes of red light with a slide show of the Italians Do It Better roster projected onto the three stage screens, it was obvious this was not going to be any old rock and roll show.

More like an arthouse cinema presentation, many of images had family members such as HEAVEN, IN MIRRORS, DOUBLE MIXTE, GLASS CANDY, KRAKÓW LOVES ADANA, JORJA CHALMERS, DESIRE and of course CHROMATICS captured in superbly designed mock movie posters, emphasising the cinematic thread running through the label. And with accompanying music from the likes of TESS ROBY and ZOLA JESUS, the artistic circle was complete.

Photo by Chi Ming Lai

Beginning the live proceedings were brooding Parisian duo DOUBLE MIXTE, coming over like a modern day Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg but with a lively techno backbone.

The Gauloises flavoured film noir synergy of Clara Apolit and Thomas Maan came over in a combination of feminine Gallic prose over fat bursts of synths for a dark disco soundtrack that had decadent cool written literally all over it.

This was especially evident on their debut IDIB single ‘Romance Noire’ and the striking visuals of rotating tape reels and VU meters certainly aided the DOUBLE MIXTE presentation cause in what can only be described as an impactful opening set.

Next on stage came DESIRE, the IDIB project fronted by Megan Louise, the charismatic PVC dressed Canadian other half of Johnny Jewel. With the band featuring Johnny Jewel and CHROMATICS drummer Nat Walker with the stylish enigmatic figure of Aja, singer of HEAVEN on keyboards, the quartet fielded their distinctly danceable style of classic synthpop, as exemplified by ‘Mirroir Mirroir’, ‘Don’t Call’ and ‘If I Can’t Hold You’.

Living up to Megan Louise’s more brazen persona, things got particularly saucy during an enjoyable note-for-note cover of NEW ORDER’s ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’.

Megan Louise literally got into the spirit of the song’s title and had a snog with Aja in full-view of her boyfriend on the opposite side of the stage.

Closing the DESIRE set with ‘Under Your Spell’ from the influential soundtrack to the Ryan Gosling film ‘Drive’, Megan Louise certainly warmed things up although as she departed, Aja and Johnny Jewel stared each other out in a sustained drone duel of the Korg 700 synths.

And with that, the classic synthpop vibe did not subside with Romy Madley Croft of THE XX providing a superb DJ set of synthpop classics including tunes by YAZOO, OMD’s evergreen ‘Messages’, the Italo cult classic ‘Spacer Boy by CHARLIE and Q LAZZARUS’ ‘Goodbye Horses’, a song which appeared in the Jonathan Demme directed movies ‘Married To The Mob’ and ‘Silence Of The Lambs’.

Jewel and Walker returned to the stage with guitarist Adam Miller as CHROMATICS prepared to open their headlining set with an abridged ‘Tick Of The Clock’ before the captivating presence of the stunning Ruth Radelet entered the room for a wonderful rendition of ‘Lady’.

While there was glamour, her aura exuded a darker fatalistic quality after the provactive sass of DESIRE.

‘Kill For Love’ from the 2012 album of the same name (and from which a large portion of the set was drawn) highlighted their cross of NEW ORDER styled indie guitar pop and electronic grandeur. While it all combined to give CHROMATICS their unique selling point, there were also doses of shoegaze derived creative distortion.

The carefully considered visuals were particularly striking with ‘Night Drive’, ‘Back From The Grave’ and ‘I Can Never Be Myself When You’re Around’ accompanied by images ranging from Korg Mono/Poly synths and blood stained guitars to speedy clocks and Radelet’s exquisite visage which would look like a Hollywood starlet one moment and then distort into an image more unsettling the next.

While material from the recent stop-gap album ‘Closer To Grey’ was noticeably absent, concessions were made to newer material like the single ‘Time Rider’ released earlier in 2019.

Miller took to the mic for the lengthy electro art funk of ‘These Streets Will Never Look the Same’ before Radelet’s breathy vocal return on ‘I Want Your Love’.

The eerie ‘Cherry’ with bubbles of bright synth and treated guitar showed CHROMATICS at their best with a sinister groove to accompany Radelet’s forlorn vocal delivery, before a Neil Young cover in the shape of ‘Into The Black’ closed the main set leaving behind a suitably doom laden mood and an extended keyboard passage from Jewel.

For the encore, Radelet returned alone to give an enticing solo interpretation of Springsteen’s ‘I’m on Fire’, but for the casual fans of CHROMATICS in the audience, at last came ‘Shadow’, the ghostly wistful number that came to prominence thanks to its inclusion in ‘Twin Peaks: The Return’. However, although Radelet’s wispy vocal performance was superlative throughout, the use of guitar rather than string machine for the main melodic theme perhaps lacked the emotive chill of the studio recording.

To end the evening, a respectful rhythmic version of Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’ gave Johnny Jewel an opportunity to fully exploit the buzzing capabilities of his Korg 700.

And as each member of the band walked off the stage in turn, Jewel was still there at the end, knob twiddling until it was obvious that it was way past curfew!

Stylishly conceived and presented, many established acts could learn from how Italians Do It Better curated ‘Double Exposure’. From the visuals to the lighting, to the outfits to the DJ and finally to the live music itself, it was like a danceable art installation.

While the CHROMATICS set list wasn’t particularly ambitious and had changed little since their last London appearance in 2013, it was part of a complete experience that engaged on many levels. And with that, The Electricity Club left The Roundhouse suitably entertained…


Special thanks to Frankie Davison at Stereo Sanctity

https://www.facebook.com/CHROMATICSBAND/

https://twitter.com/chromatics

https://www.instagram.com/chromaticsmusic/

https://www.facebook.com/PRIMITIVEDESIRE/

https://twitter.com/primitivedesire

https://www.instagram.com/desire_megan/

https://www.facebook.com/doublemixtemusic/

https://twitter.com/Double_Mixte_

https://italiansdoitbetter.com/

https://twitter.com/idib

https://www.instagram.com/italiansdoitbetter/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Roger Kamp from Cologne concert except where credited
29th October 2019

CHROMATICS Closer To Grey

Oregon-born CHROMATICS have undergone multiple line-up changes since their first release ‘Chrome Rats vs. Basement Rutz’, as well as style shifts and near death experiences.

Needless to say, the now foursome Johnny Jewel, Ruth Radelet, Adam Miller and Nat Walker are back from a seven year hiatus with a powerful vengeance in form of ‘Closer To Grey’.

Since their fifth studio opus, ‘Kill For Love’, the band had been planning outing number six, entitled ‘Dear Tommy’.

Singles like ‘Shadow’, ‘Just Like You’, ‘In Films’, ‘I Can Never Be Myself When You’re Around’ and the eponymous ‘Dear Tommy’ had been showcased, but the album never materialised.

It has been revealed that Johnny Jewel, for whom “music is medicine”, had destroyed all physical copies of ‘Dear Tommy’ following a near-death experience while swimming in Hawaii. What was supposed to follow, was a re-recording of it and its subsequent release.

Instead, listeners have been surprised with a new long player ‘Closer To Grey’, branded as “VII”, suggesting that all the material on ‘Dear Tommy’ could still see the light of day. Still, the newest release sounds nothing like the sample songs from the elusive missing number six.

The biggest shift for the group came on their highly acclaimed third studio release ‘Night Drive’, where they left their punk sound behind, wowing with competent songwriting, good enough for extensive motion picture use.

More recently the one and only David Lynch employed Jewel and co to perform ‘Shadow’ on the ‘Twin Peaks’ revival series, where the Roadhouse welcomed the band for a live performance.

With their newly found momentum, CHROMATICS air ‘Closer To Grey’, welcoming the colours of fall with a very poignant cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘The Sound Of Silence’ as the album opener.

With its mellow hues, an airy vocal by Radelet and a black record noise, the track welcomes the found again nostalgia and an underlying feeling of dread, which has become the band’s signature.

‘You’re No Good’ shifts the tempo however, introducing a very electronic poppy number, glittering with catchy hooks and sparkling progressions. The album’s eponymous song ushers the gentle guitar and ringing bells over an easy going, lazy summer feel, drifting away into synthy ‘Twist The Knife’, which is very LADYTRON meets early CLIENT. The weightless ‘Light As A Feather’ uses the power of layered multi-voice to create a delicate canvas à la Sarah P.

‘Move A Mountain’ continues the fragility of vocals over sparse melody, while ‘Touch Red’ brings in sensual textures, stroking the surface with minimal touch, intercepting every breath and every movement. Heavier artillery is brought out on ‘Whispers In The Hall’ with a ringing synth line and pulsating elements, which multiply to be brought into an extravaganza of electronic noise, only mellowed by the ethereal vocal of Radelet.

The second cover on the project comes in the form of JESUS & MARY CHAIN’s ‘On The Wall’. While with less guitar and much more ambient feel, the track keeps its mellow appearance.

The closing ‘Wishing Well’ wraps up the dreamy affairs with more calmness and delicacy, leading into sweet nothingness.

Is the material on ‘Closer To Grey’ worth the seven years’ wait? Some may find it unlikely, but let’s not forget the singles from what would have been the album number six, ‘Dear Tommy’, which were aired during that period.

The seventh opus is certainly mellow and airy, but it has some harder elements alongside pure pop numbers which can be widely enjoyed. The amazing voice of Ruth Radelet weaves in and out of adept electronica, making ‘Closer To Grey’ a success and a record that is both easy listening and suitable for a weathered synth connoisseur.


‘Closer To Grey’ is released by Italians Do It Better, available digitally from https://italiansdoitbetter.com/product/chromatics-closer-to-grey/

CHROMATICS 2019 European tour includes:

Copenhagen Grey Hall (4th October), Stockholm Berns (5th October), Oslo Rockefeller Music Hall (7th October), Berlin Astra Kulturhaus (9th October), Vilnius Art Factory Loftas (11th October), Warsaw Praga Centrum (12th October), Vienna Arena (14th October), Prague MeetFactory (16th October), Munich Muffathalle (17th October), Cologne Carlswerk Victoria (19th October), Dublin Vicar Street (22nd October), Manchester Albert Hall (23rd October), Glasgow SWG3 (24th October), Bristol Anson Rooms (26th October), London Roundhouse (27th October), Antwerp Trix (29th October), Amsterdam Paradiso (30th October)

https://italiansdoitbetter.com/chromatics/

https://www.facebook.com/CHROMATICSBAND/

https://twitter.com/chromatics

https://www.instagram.com/chromaticsmusic/

https://twitter.com/idib

https://www.instagram.com/italiansdoitbetter/


Text by Monika Izabela Trigwell
Photos by Johnny Jewel
3rd October 2019, updated 4th October 2019

JORJA CHALMERS Human Again

Australian multi-instrumentalist Jorja Chalmers was first spotted within the London music scene as a member of HOTEL MOTEL, a stylish new wave pop trio with shades of BERLIN who were described by DJ Mark Moore of S-EXPRESS fame as like a ROXY MUSIC album cover come to life.

So it was quite fitting in 2009 when Chalmers was recruited as a sax and keys player for Bryan Ferry; she has more or less been there ever since and that would kind of explain why her debut LP ‘Human Again’ has been a long-time coming.

Primarily instrumental and recorded in her boss’ studio while later co-mixed by Johnny Jewel, head honcho for the Italians Do It Better stable, the home to CHROMATICS, DESIRE and HEAVEN, ‘Human Again’ is a conceptual observation on the human condition.

Conceived and sketched in hotel rooms during the come down from playing songs like ‘In Every Dream Home A Heartache’ to packed theatres around the world, ‘Human Again’ succeeds in capturing those feelings of emptiness and alienation that can often arise from living the dream.

As the opening album title song asks “Hello, are you breathing? Can you make me Human Again?”, a mountainous aural art piece acts as a cathartic expression in a collage of voice, synth and sax, like Enya wandering into ‘Twin Peaks’ but discovering it is full of ‘Subterraneans’…

The following ‘Red Light’ is brilliant and sinister with sharp rhythmic passages and cascading keys combining for a claustrophobic Cold War atmosphere. Laced with abstract whispers and chilling off-key organ, the European tension recalls Chalmers’ French label mates DOUBLE MIXTE and even the haunted dancehall of THE SABRES OF PARADISE. ‘Black Shadow’ maintains that air of mystery, tainted with desolation.

Meanwhile, of a more sombre synthy disposition, ‘She Made Him Love Again’ is a song where Chalmers’ breathy vocals possess a gorgeous forlorn allure, so when the icy string machine and deep sax join in, proceedings rise to another level.

The sinister pulsing arpeggios on ‘Copper Bells’ are simplistic but effective, while ‘No Words’ presents an eerie ambience. More sax based, ‘Our Love In A Glass So Thin’ gets smothered in reverb while detuned electronics add to the moody ‘Low’ before ‘Suburban Pastel’ offers a cautious rumbling sound sculpture.

But the sax returns on ‘This Is Where The Sky Begins’ where it is rich and expressive over a spacey soundscape, with a strangely soothing feeling compared some of the more unsettling pieces that are collected on ‘Human Again’.

As the haunting string ensemble, church organ and bursts of bass synth recall Klaus Schulze on ‘The Sum Of Our Sins’, the ghostly closer ‘Ship In The Sky’ is swathed in drifting melancholy like Arvo Part’s solemn ‘Fratres’.

Capturing the emotion of a stranger in a strange land after the artifice of adulation only hours earlier, ‘Human Again’ is a back-down-to-earth reality check in musical form, to indeed get back to being human again.

This is a rather captivating record that is well worth the time and space, exuding quality in abundance.


‘Human Again’ is released by Italians Do it Better in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats, available from https://italiansdoitbetter.com/product/jorja-chalmers-human-again/

https://www.instagram.com/jorjachalmers/

https://twitter.com/IDIB


Text by Chi Ming Lai
16th September 2019

HEAVEN Truth Or Dare

With fresh blood and new tears, the mysterious HEAVEN first came to wider attention with the release of the ‘Lonesome Town’ EP featuring the hauntingly breathy ‘It’s Not Enough’ as its lead track.

Meanwhile, caked in reverb and virtually unrecognisable, the funereal paced title song cover of the Ricky Nelson ballad chillingly captured the fragility of the broken heart.

Issued by Italians Do It Better, home of CHROMATICS, closer scrutiny revealed that HEAVEN was another project helmed by the ubiquitous musician and producer Johnny Jewel.

Fronted by the enigmatic allure of singer and keyboardist Aja, the brilliant new single ‘Truth Or Dare’ perhaps unsurprisingly sounds like CHROMATICS but with more synths and drum machine. Less intense than any of the ‘Lonesome Town’ EP, it is still no less melancholic.

Directing the visual accompaniment to ‘Truth Or Dare’, Johnny Jewel positions Aja seductively operating a Korg 770 while she is sumptuously captured in a vintage split screen while filmed by Rene Hallen, the cinematographer on previous CHROMATICS videos ‘Black Walls’ and ‘Blue Girl’.

As Aja ponders to her lover that “Your lips won’t tell me…”, she realises the truth hurts but accepts that with “Dreams in my head, I still keep them hidden”.

Although not appearing as HEAVEN, Aja has been on stage with Johnny Jewel as the live keyboardist of DESIRE who have been opening for CHROMATICS on their ‘Double Exposure’ 2019 world tour which arrives in the UK this October.


‘Truth Or Dare’ is released by Italians Do It Better via the usual digital outlets

https://italiansdoitbetter.com/heaven/

https://twitter.com/Heaven_idib

https://www.instagram.com/heaven_idib/

https://www.facebook.com/ITALIANSDOITBETTER/

https://twitter.com/IDIB

https://www.instagram.com/italiansdoitbetter


Text by Chi Ming Lai
3rd August 2019

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