Buy first half of the album with The Cure (Disintegration era) inspired opener ‘Camouflage’, the warped funk of ‘Search Party’ and the warm spectral loop, deep bass and chugging rhythm of ‘Photojournalist’, other gems abound for the patient.

‘Hydra’ begins sparsely with effectively eastern sounding chords before opening up its pop elements. A singular casio and Kolenik’s airy voice take centre stage on ‘Crisp 100s’ as the incessant patter of programmed drums quietly taps away. This track in particular is illustrative of the aforementioned transformative character inherent in each track. The approach above gives way to two separate hooks that bear little resemblance to where it began.  ‘Goons’ is a big track in every sense but its alarmist synth sound and massive beat is calmed by its undertonal elements giving its a subtle feel despite the apparent bombast. ‘Light Curse’ ebbs away and rests on Kolenik’s vocals. The title track is a hook laden piece of pure pop brilliance while the slowdance number ‘Panthers’ is a big tease as its unforgettable main hook takes what seems forever to fully form and when it does its understatedness somehow gives it extra power.

Small Black are often superficially and unfairly associated with dark more than light, with cold more than warmth. One online blog actually labelled the album as one that ‘creeps about’! However, a few attentive listens to New Chain soon smashes those associations. Such associations are easy ones to make (well maybe that last one’s a stretch) without doing the (not so) hard yards and exploring deep beneath the multi-faceted layered approach that Small Black bring to their music. Yes, there are shades of dark at work but New Chain is an overwhelmingly warm album, an almost blissful affair at times albeit a uniquely intriguing type of bliss. The subtleties and transformations at work in each track where almost simultaneously light readily overshadows dark is indicative of a musical intelligence that demands more than a surface glance from the listener. It also allows Small Black to stand out among their peers. Bands who have the ability to make such demands of their listeners are bands that will stay the journey. There is little doubt that New Chain has put Small Black among them. A stunning debut.

James Stocker – November 13, 2010.


Camouflage (Live)

Small Black (USA)
From the album, ‘New Chain’, Jagjaguwar. Live on Fader TV. 5/11/10


Photojournalist (Live)

Small Black (USA)
From the album, ‘New Chain’, Jagjaguwar. Live on Fader TV. 5/11/10