Tonochrome is a London based quintet, Tonochrome’s first album, A Map in Fragments, was released earlier this year through Bad Elephant Music. Tonochrome is the brainchild of Andres Razzini, and the project was conceived, as the press release describes: “somewhere above the Atlantic on his travels between his native Bolivia and his adopted home in London”. Andres recruited a very skilled group of musicians for this album as well, which includes the consistently brilliant and prolific Charlie Cawood of Knifeworld/Mediæval Bæbes/My Tricksy Spirit fame (who also released a wonderful solo album of chamber music last year) on guitars. Also featured on this album are Steve Holmes (vox/keys/programming), Jack Painting (drums) and Andres Castellanos (bass).
The music is a diverse blend of influences, strengthened by solid melodies over a lush bed of symphonic orchestrations. The album is tied together by several short interludes, which creates a very cohesive and immersive listening experience. Like most music that fits in this category (art rock, prog rock, or whatever else you feel like calling it), I found that this album could be best appreciated when listened to from start to finish, though there are several very strong, single-worthy tracks.
One of my favorite songs, “Border Crossings”, reminds me a bit of what I would imagine in a collaboration between Andrew Bird and Knifeworld. Much like the rest of the album, the arrangements are lush and gorgeous while remaining deceptively clever. The song closes with a really lively, catchy outro as well, and comes as a very pleasant surprise.
Other highlights: The grunge-influenced “Tighter”, which reminds me a bit of The Bends-era Radiohead; The delightful 7/8 polyphonous shuffle of “Just Like Us”, and finally, the brilliant, cerebral, and jazzy closer, “Missing Piece”.
This album seems deceptively simple at first listen. The music is generally palatable, with catchy hooks and melodies, and words that are clever without being too obtuse. But if you look below the surface, the arrangements are dense, and at times, quite complex. This debut achieved something that only a group of highly skilled musicians can do- they wrote music that was complex but unpretentious, thoughtful but not lacking joy, and creative without being unpalatable. I liked Tonochrome after my first few listens, but over the last few months, I’ve fallen more and more in love with this album. I heartily recommend it, though I would qualify that by saying that it is an album that is worth some time investment if it doesn’t reveal itself right away.
Tonochrome’s debut album, A Map In Fragments, was released in February 2018 through Bad Elephant Music. Buy Tonochrome’s debut album here, on their Bandcamp page.