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Mysterious synth-pop act Chromatics play their first tour in over 5 years, including first date ever in PhoenixEXPAND
Mysterious synth-pop act Chromatics play their first tour in over 5 years, including first date ever in Phoenix
Courtesy of Chromatics

Chromatics' and Desire's First Tour in Nearly a Decade Comes to Phoenix

Time is relative. If you need evidence of this, look no further than Los Angeles-based label Italians Do It Better, home to synth-pop legends Chromatics and Desire.

The new single from Chromatics is called “Time Rider,” which nods both musically and thematically to the group’s breakout single “Tick of the Clock.” Eight years have passed since that track and the Desire track “Under Your Spell” were featured in Nicolas Winding Refn’s hit film Drive. Now, the two bands are hitting the road for what is Chromatics’ first tour in five years and the two bands’ first joint tour since Drive was released. In some ways, many things have changed since then. In others, the clock ticks on, same as it ever was.

The past is a grotesque animal (as Of Montreal said so poignantly), and its constant recycling makes it equal parts beautiful and scattered. This metamorphosis is a fundamental ingredient in the Italians Do It Better recipe. The Double Exposure tour takes a nod in its name from the Chromatics track “Camera.” First released on 2013 label compilation After Dark 2, “Camera” was revisited last year with fresh production and a new vocal from lead singer Ruth Radalet (the original vocals were done by Adam Miller). Desire got a similar retreatment for After Dark 2 track “Tears From Heaven,” whose 2018 rendition cut the house tempo to half time and let Megan Louise’s vocals take front and center. Both tracks, wonderful in both forms, showcase a quintessential truth for the label’s ethos: Timeless music doesn’t need to be timely.

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“Camera,” alongside Chromatics smash hit “Cherry,” were meant to be our first taste of a new LP from the band, Dear Tommy, originally scheduled to arrive before Valentine’s Day 2015. As the year turned into years, more singles arrived (“Just Like You,” “Shadow,” and the fantastic “In Films”), but no album.

In April 2016, a very different type of announcement was made: Chromatics would be involved in the return of David Lynch’s beloved Twin Peaks television series. The alignment made perfect sense, given Chromatics’ roots in the Pacific Northwest music scene and their undoubtedly cinematic blend of John Carpenter-esque production and dreamy melodic textures.

When Chromatics played in the two-hour premiere of Twin Peaks: The Return, news about Dear Tommy finally broke. Producer and ringleader Johnny Jewel had almost drowned in Hawaii on Christmas 2015, and the near-death experience inspired him to destroy over 20,000 combined vinyl and CD copies of Dear Tommy and start the record over from the top.

While disappointing, the move wasn’t altogether surprising. After all, if Dear Tommy were to have the untouchable staying power of previous Chromatics records Night Drive and Kill For Love, it needed to be perfect in every way. Perhaps better than anyone else, Johnny Jewel knows that perfection has no timeline.

As the Dear Tommy waiting game rolls on, a tour from Chromatics and Desire (together with Vancouver labelmates In Mirrors) makes patience a whole lot easier. The show will feature a full visual accompaniment mixed live by video artist Danny Perez, who previously directed the titillating Animal Collective film ODDSAC. Interestingly, the press release for the tour mentions that the band “will be playing their favorite moments from Night Drive, Kill For Love, Cherry, and Dear Tommy,” that still-unreleased record mentioned in tow alongside these long-held favorites, as if its anticipation has made it just as real and tangible as its predecessors.

Maybe Chromatics have already seen the future. Maybe in their time in Twin Peaks, the group traveled inter-dimensionally and saw a vision of themselves unbound by our modern notions of immediacy. Whatever the case may be, fans are still waiting on for a record they know will soundtrack years of their lives to come, and getting to witness it first on stage is a date not to be late for.

Chromatics with Desire and In Mirrors: Double Exposure Tour. 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 7, at Crescent Ballroom, 308 North Second Avenue; crescentphx.com. Tickets are $30.50 via Eventbrite.

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