In at least one way, synthetic music is never wholly live, since its most basic building blocks are tones and sounds that have been recorded and stored, not blown or strummed or pounded. Yet, as Chicago’s Chandeliers demonstrate, what you do with those stored bits of sound can be as live as you want it, the foundation of an aesthetic that is as improvisatory and communicative as any traditional-instrument jazz band. Their first full-length is built on improvised jams — one guy taking off from another guy’s idea, two people talking with notes and rhythms — that visibly move and adapt while you listen. Recorded partly with Icy Demons’ Blue Hawaii and partly at Mahjongg’s home studio, The Thrush melds the popcorn beats and synth flourishes of disco with the scratchier funkiness of world-rhythms.
“Mr. Electric”, right off the bat, calls out 70s porn funk with its buzzy synth bass, syncopated, stop-short drums, washes of plasticine synthesizer tones. “Mango Tree”, the only cut with vocals, is slithery with falsetto soul trills, lush with multiple keyboards. It sounds very much like those late 70s soul-into-disco crossover hits, all bass and mock insinuation. They’re interesting cuts, but feel a bit overthought and overcrowded, at least compared to the two clear winners near the end. “Bamboo” is far scruffier and more ominous, adding the sub-bass threat to its syncopated sheen. It’s followed by even dirtier “Graffiti” whose clattering drone (and melodica) evokes dub-steppers like Appleblim), while its bass funk underpinnings remind you of Mahjonng. These tracks strip off some of the sheen inherent in those cold, perfect electronic sounds, and pare down the number of ideas working simultaneously…for a clear album highlight.