Beat Synthetic
The Caribbean
Chroma Key
Super XX Man/Eric Metronome
The Turbo A.C.'s
David Zweig
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Chroma Key
Chroma Key
You Go Now
Fight Evil

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America has spawned its answer to Air, the French valium rock duo. Though initiated by Kevin Moore of Dream Theatre, Chroma Key sheds that band's progressive metal angle for a hypnotic, at times trippy landscape of slow jams, found voices and lush grooves. Synthesizers and keyboards never sounded so good. With the dominance of synthesized voices comes a cold, alien feel -- but it's not so off-putting as to detract from these subtle, slow-motion triumphs. Chroma Key, masters of uber-mellow mini-soundtracks, insert just enough bite here and there to keep listeners from completely evaporating into the ether. "Subway," for instance, evolves the seductive lull of its opening into a Trans-Am-ish smack -- a wall of sound that overtakes the cut, turning a somnambulant haze into a head-bobbing romp. It's a sweet contrast that's skillfully delivered.

Several cuts evoke Brian Eno and David Byrne's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, which masterfully mixed found voices, placenta-lush synthesizers and addictive jams. Chroma Key's "Astronaut Down" falls short of the standard by relegating its radio transmissions from astronauts to a backdrop; Eno and Byrne would have designed a way to use the crackling calls as a lead or hook. "When You Drive" better integrates the found voices, however, making the listener wonder if the odd, spoken words were written for the song or vice versa. Delicate child-like vocals lilt about the song, snaking through it and tying the found vocals to the halting rhythm track.

Several tracks, such as "Nice to Know", are more reminiscent of Pink Floyd. Here, a simple, thin keyboard line buttresses the decidedly Roger Waters-ish vocals. Repetitive and haunting, the vocals, like Waters' efforts, lure one into complacency -- yet the lyrics don't have the bite or sticky narrative of many of Pink Floyd's songs. You Go Down is a tempting collection nonetheless -- the kind of music you'd want piped into your spine if you were going to swim through grape jelly.

-- Rodney Gibbs
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