Music Reviews

Diagrams Chromatics

(Full Time Hobby) Rating - 4/10

If you’re relatively unknown in the world of music, a strong beginning is pretty much essential, and that’s exactly what Diagrams, aka Sam Genders, does on Chromatics, his second full-length LP. Opening track, Phantom Power, is a delight; wispy and melodic with a handful of electronic flickers to keep your attention. It’s simple but efficient, and there’s nothing obvious that could be done to improve it.

Sadly for Diagrams – and for us, the listeners – that’s about as good as it gets for Chromatics. The following ten tracks are simply failed attempts to repeat Phantom Power’s formula, and it leads to a dispiriting and unrewarding experience.

The music of Diagrams comes across as the halfway point between Grandaddy and Tunng, with just a little of The Lemonheads at their most commercial thrown in. However, like Tunng, Diagrams suffer from disinterested vocals; whilst Genders may be attempting to communicate with us on an emotional level, his tone and liveliness are more appropriate for telling your energy provider the reading on your meter. This doesn’t give you anything to latch on to and connect with, and Genders’ dreary monotone makes many of the tracks instantly forgettable.

As far as the instrumentation itself goes, it’s perfectly pleasant. However, pleasant doesn’t keep you coming back for more. Pleasant doesn’t give you a transcendent experience. Pleasant doesn’t push you to the farthest edges of your emotional range. No-one ever described a memorable day in their life as pleasant. No-one ever had sex with someone simply because they were pleasant. In a saturated marketplace, ‘pleasant’ counts for absolutely nothing.

Whilst not all music needs drama and jeopardy, it’s almost as if the arrangements on Chromatics are too complementary, like the individual component parts are all correlated. Consequently, with no abrasive edges to break things up, the music is just… there, never doing anything outwardly wrong but never breaking free of its strait jacket to provoke an emotional response.

Musicians and artists presumably make stylistic choices based on what they’re passionate about, and it’s difficult to imagine anyone getting truly passionate about Chromatics. It’s largely inoffensive and bland, with a few above average moments, and has a tendency to fade into the background. Safe to say that when the lists are collated for the best albums of 2015, Chromatics won’t be included, because people will have forgotten that it ever existed.