Even though they’ve only released one previous album, fans of the So-Cal jazz-math-prog rock group Chon know what to expect from them. They’re recognized by their soft chords, technical riffs and solos, and their carefree vibe. The band’s 2015 début album, Grow, showcased their unique talent and sensibilities, and thankfully, the band continues to play with those on their sophomore effort Homey. Not only do they maintain these themes, but they find alternative ways to use them through new sounds and by bringing in other artists.
While there are several electronic elements to Homey, plenty of the songs maintain Chon‘s original sound that fans have enjoyed on Grow, Wohoo! and Newborn Sun. The opener, “Sleepy Tea”, is undoubtedly one of these. After the first thirty seconds, guitarists Mario and Erick share a lovely guitar melody that dances across the strings. The song transitions into soft chord changes before the drums change up the beat. There’s an awful lot of wah-pedal usage towards the end of the track that I didn’t like at first, but has begun to grow on me. Haha…okay, back to the review.
If the subtleties of the guitars on “Sleepy Tea” aren’t to your liking, then try “Waterslide”: The second single from Homey features some more prominent solos, very technical bass playing, and interesting synthesized effects. The wah-pedal makes a comeback, but this time it rests solely in the rhythm guitar. There’s also a dazzling bass feature in this song, but it’s painfully difficult to hear. It doesn’t seem drowned out, rather it was turned down way too low. My inner bass player is now very sad, knowing that their guest bassist Anthony Crawford basically had his part cut. The solo at 3:02 in the music video is now my new favorite Chon moment (aside from this wonderful solo in “Knot”). It also contains some trippy…noises? I still haven’t quite figured out what these are exactly, but they sound pretty neat as well.
Help from the Homeys
It’s impossible to talk about this album without discussing the tracks that take on a hip-hop or r&b attitude, of which there are four on Homey: “Berry Streets (feat. GoYama)”, “Nayhoo (feat. Masego and Lophile)”, “Feel This Way (feat. Giraffage)”, and “Glitch (feat. ROM)”. The first of these has an odd, echoing vocal sample and a drum beat one may hear inside of a Forever 21. While it flaunts an interesting keyboard melody, the guitars definitely take a backseat compared to the songs that most fans are familiar with; this trend later continues in “Nayhoo”. Masego‘s lyrics glide across this track as he sings about his feelings for a beautiful girl. The sunny vibe and relaxing beat reminded me of something off of Chance the Rapper‘s Coloring Book.
“Feel This Way” utilizes sampled vocals in an oddly simplistic way. The ‘feel this way‘ line meanders gingerly over soft chords and gentle riffs. The guitars on this track come to the forefront in the latter half of the track, transitioning into the swirling sounds of “Continue?”. Finally, ROM provides some clicking, snapping beats to compliment the guitar and synth passage on “Glitch”. Mario and Erick are given plenty of room to offer their signature solos and melodies, but they also allow ROM to fully support the song. It’s probably the best blend of R&B and prog guitar on the album.
Is this the new Chon?
For those fans who don’t like the new influences that the band has begun to experiment with, fear not! There are still plenty of tracks that maintain Chon‘s old sound. “No Signal” has become a personal favorite of mine on this album, with its delicate yet forceful guitar passages, easy-going basslines, and sharp drums. Closing track “Wave Bounce” is also another callback to their previous work, and reminds me of “Splash” with it’s winding runs of notes and beach soundbyte. “Checkpoint” and “The Space” are some other noteworthy tracks.
While they’ve clearly begun to experiment with some interesting ideas, I’m unsure of where the band will go in the future. I really enjoy some of the risks they took (“Glitch”), but some of them didn’t go so well (“Berry Streets”). Whether or not you’re a fan of Chon, give this record a try. Even if you typically don’t enjoy electronic music, you may find yourself bobbing your head to the beats anyway!
Notable Tracks: “Sleepy Tea”; “Waterslide”; “Nayhoo (feat. Masego and Lophile)”; “Wave Bounce”
FFO: Plini, Polyphia, Intervals, Chance the Rapper