Since the inception of San Diego’s three piece instrumental act, CHON have consistently impressed in delivering some of the most unique and beautiful music out of the progressive rock scene. Both ‘Newborn Sun’ and ‘Woohoo!’ were dazzling releases; brimming with luscious guitar melodies and basslines to follow, and some punchy and technical drums that made many musicians’ ears perk up and become inspired to spend hours practicing their respective instruments. It was ‘Grow’ however, the first full length LP released in 2015 that felt appropriately titled as it saw the band spread their wings in terms of production quality and diversity. Now on June 16th we see the release of ‘Homey’ through Sumerian Records. It is a record that has been fittingly recorded at Palmquist Studios in Los Angelas with producer Eric Palmquist, who is well known for his work with heavyweights such as Thrice, The Mars Volta and Bad Suns. Having recently reviewed ‘Health’, an instrumental record from the brilliant three piece Alpha Male Tea Party, diving back into another instrumental LP feels like a daunting task to endure, so let’s see how this Californian three piece hold up over the duration of twelve tracks.
‘Sleepy Tea’ is an interesting title for the opening track; on the one hand it has sublime guitar work through smooth jazz elements of its chord progressions and vibe; whilst on the other it takes you on a journey that only conjures imagery of an adventurous dream. Fortunately the music video released for this first single does the work for you as we witness a flying guitar embark on an 8-bit voyage (see music video below) – and on a side note; if this were a legitimate video game, we would play the hell out of it! This opening song is both a calm delight to listen to, whilst simultaneously being an assault on the senses as guitarists Mario Camerena , Erick Hansel and drummer Nathan Camerena showcase their ludicrously impressive musicianship. This song entails drumming at a break neck speed, shredding all over the fret-board, and odd time signatures whilst remaining fluid and never bridging into the jarring territory many progressive rock acts find themselves in.
For such an intense yet calm release, ‘Homey’ handles its pacing through quick shifts. On the second track ‘Waterslide’ we further witness the technical prowess of the band. I found myself wondering if these songs were named as metaphors to describe relating experiences; because the pace of this track builds up frantically and then suddenly washes over with calm multiple times, just like that of the rush of a water slide. What CHON lack in the department of vocals and conveying a message, they completely make up in terms of vibe and atmosphere. This vibe is exemplified as being a sum of its parts; through its presentation in using a vintage washed out photograph of the sea and a palm tree, to the overall clean and relaxing guitar tones and soul captured in this record as a whole. The band comment on their press release that they “rented out a space literally right in front of the beach to write/jam during the writing process” and that it “naturally had an impact on how the songs came out”; consequently this is a record that perfectly encapsulates its artwork and relaxing aura.
The band have expanded their sound and experimented on a large scale with ‘Homey’ over four collaborative tracks with some of their favourite artists. ‘CHONxGoYama: Berry Street’ is a gentle number that mixes chopped and sampled guitar lines in a similar fashion to that of the brilliant Minus The Bear during their ‘Menos El Oso’ and ‘Planet of Ice’ era whilst incorporating Go Yama’s classy reverberated clicks and 808 beats. Perhaps the strongest of these collaborations however; is ‘CHONxLophile: Nayhoo (feat. Masego)’ a track of which the band ease off the technicality in favour of heavy Rn’B influences and some truly smooth vocals from Masego. The incorporation of singing and slight rap cadence in the middle of a dominantly instrumental record goes over exceptionally here and the band must be acknowledged for their bold risk taking. ‘CHONxGiraffage: Feel This Way’ incorporates a contemporary sound of tight high hats, trap beats and heavy EDM synths throughout its chorus. This may perhaps come off as too sugary sweet for some of the bands core audience, but the addition of Mario’s guitar licks over this and ‘CHONxROM: Gltich’ is truly unlike anything around within the EDM genre and builds its merit from that.
‘No signal’ may perhaps be a self explanatory moment of escapism, through subtle soundscape elements of birds chirping in the background. This is yet another showcase of intricate guitar playing that puts a case forward for an appreciation of expressing musical complexity without the looming sense of challenge on the listener’s ear. Furthermore; the seemingly random blast beat on the drums at the back end of this track is cheeky, it exemplifies this bands mantra of writing music for fun and throwing away the rule book. In addition to the sense of fun is the subtle enjoyable video game references of the song titles ala: ‘Checkpoint’ and ‘Continue?’. ‘Here and There’ is as it indicates, all over the place in terms of style and structure. For those that fell in love with the bands ability to flex their muscles as musicians from the jump, this is a track that is going to satisfy. Rhythmically, drummer Nathan even ventures into the Latino tendencies of off-beat swung grooves which could go down a storm with the current trend of Caribbean and dance hall music’s popularity.
The ending of the closing track ‘Wave Bounce’ is a perfect calm after the storm of an intense yet joyous listen. This is both metaphorically and physically like laying on the beach to the sunset as we hear the sounds of waves gently rolling in during ‘Homey’s closing moments. In the face of fear and terror in today’s political climate and the fast paced motion of our society, CHON have refined a sound that is challenging in the progressive sense, whilst experimenting successfully and delivering a package that is truly relaxing and breathe of fresh air that we all need. Let’s go to the beach!
This LP is an astonishingly impressive from start to finish and see's the band put atmosphere amidst experimentation