Chrome - Alien Soundtracks (1977)

Posted by Amelia Swhizzagers On 3:07 AM

"Alien Soundtracks" begins with the slow upfade of a droning guitar and cymbal roll, building in intensity as it slowly pans from left to right. The c umulative anxiety this creates in the listener suddenly apexes dead-center as a slightly overdriven, mono drum track attacks in an odd, mechanical rhythm. Here is Chromosome Damage. The quality of this piece mirrors basement, garage or war ehouse space recordings as the air around the instruments reeks of distant mic placement. This piece actually sounds like a decent live recording, complete wit h vocals fighting to escape the din of garage acid rock.

You're fighting out on the streets
Put you with all the theives and cheats
Going off to fight in a war
I don't know why but I do know more

Synth drones, effected guitar, samples from old television ads, and fade-in of a nother garage-esque jam (featuring backward drums, classic fender guitar sounds with phase shifter, and Moog synth bass) finalize this extraordinary song. At one point, the backwards drugs - I mean, drums - abruptly reverse without the jam missing a beat , showcasing a mastery of tape editing unlike most others of the era . I can only imagine what their recording sessions were like - this record defin es project studio experimentation under the knife!

Steve Tupper (Subterranean) recently told me that this record was recorded entire ly "at home", most likely on a 1/2" eight track. Creative genius b egan with several jam sessions recorded on tape by whatever means necessary, whi ch were then carefully combed for basic tracks and cleverly edited with a healthy dose of experimental inquisitiveness. Overdubbing was completed on the cream of t he crop, and hands-on mixing occurred in the style of "everyone grab a knob and twist!" More editing, more effects, and more manipulation followed until finally... an absolute masterpiece! Every blessed moment includes garage-sounding jams, intros of noise, TV cutups, drones, fun with tape delays, and loads of ins pired effects.

The quintessential piece on "Alien Soundtracks" is Nova Feedback, wh ich concludes side one of the original LP. Nova Feedback opens with a multi tr ack pan-o-rama of guitar drones and noodling, which fades fast in to quick edit s followed closely by a bass and drum track that makes one's eyelids heavy and n eck go limp. A mono drum track is then introduced as a simple steady high hat beat with kick drum accents and phase shifter (this was the first time I ever heard phase shifter on drums - such an experience!). The entire ensemble is fleshed out with a soaring, slowly panned guitar drone accompanied by the perfect lead mel ody riff - the combination of so much creativity makes the head swim helplessly! W ho needs drums - I mean, drugs - when you can get so stoned listening to this piec e of sensory excellence?

Adding to its obvious appeal is that this record has an unusual fidelity, in gener al. The unique combination of low-fi and hi-fi sounds makes this recording difficu lt to pin down - it doesn't sound like a studio album, but most of the tracks are really well recorded, none-the-less. The mix is defined and refined, the edits are flawless, and the effects are tasteful and add to the beauty of the recorded track . But it's a far cry from Steely Dan - I'm sure no one knew what to think of this album when it came out... except, of course, that they had to have it.
Tracks
01. Chromosome Damage (3:42)
02. The Monitors (2:23)
03. All Data Lost (3:22)
04. SS Cygni (3:38)
05. Nova Feedback (5:58)
06. Pigmies in Zee Park (6:07)
07. Slip it to the Android (4:01)
08. Pharoah Chromium (3:28)
09. ST37 (2:12)
10. Magnetic Dwarf Reptile (3:30)
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