Small Black – New Chain - 6.7/10
Published 12-10-2010 (originally on SSG Music).
record cover

(Original version deleted from SSG and not available on's wayback machine. This is from my notes and may have been edited or had links in the published version.)

The internet-fabricated genre "chillwave" is just over a year old and the original bands are starting to take their second shot at creating the perfect 80's movie soundtrack. Small Black are following up their well respected debut EP by adding their first full length, New Chain, to that growing chillwave collection.

A chillwave record is created with a few simple recording tricks. To begin, use a single microphone stand in the middle of a giant warehouse. Snap a cheap omnidirectional mic into the stand and hook it to a 1980's boom box. Put a piece of cellophane tape over the recording holes of a slightly sun-warped cassette of Paula Abdul's Forever Your Girl, put it in the deck and press record. Make sure that your recording device causes the treble and synth lines to bleed through in your recording, however. In one corner of the warehouse, Robert Smith from The Cure should be singing random words. In the opposite corner, the oldest analog drum machine you can find should be turned up on full blast and played through speakers filled with cotton. If possible, get someone to do the Molly Ringwald dance during the recording, just to ensure the proper ambiance. Vary the tempo, 80's tape, and singer to get different sounds.

Small Black have stuck to this reverb and synth driven sound in their latest on Jagjaguwar. From the first track, the sound brings back the scene from every brat pack movie where the nerdy kid finally gets the sort of hot girl to admit she liked him all along. On New Chain, they discover this truth at the school dance, of course. While we listen to the music from outside the gym, it drifts leisurely to us behind the teenage love stares of the movie's two stars.

A few songs on the record wander away from this formula a bit. Search Party is a jangly starlight celebration of late summer nights driving around with the windows down and the warm breeze tickling your ironic moustache or side ponytail. Photojournalist is an alien interpretation of a New Order song slowed down by the vaccuum of space. Panthers is a Psychedelic Furs song slowed down and reverbed out.

In total, the Small Black record plays like a vinyl copy of the Pretty in Pink soundtrack, complete with the hiss and warble of a record left in storage for twenty years. As a part of the 80's throwback movement, it does a fine job. It has all the sounds and styles and is combined with today's lo-fidelity recording preferences to appeal to the listeners who missed out on the 80's the first time around. If you're a fan of these chillwave artists and need something to fill up the background while you finally approach your crush, this record will fit the bill. Just don't count on remembering the song later.

If you like this page, you can buy me a coffee.

Keywords: small black, chillwave, ssg, review

comments powered by Disqus