New Chain is the debut long-player from New York's Small Black. Richly coloured and thickly layered, it is an absorbing, eclectic and obsessive body of work. The Brooklyn group have succeeded in melting together locked and popped drum-shudder, gauzy spirographic synths and subtly contagious, half-remembered melody into ebullient bursts of evocative, subliminal and thoroughly modern pop. The songs are equally informed by the rhythmic bounce and stylistic swagger of more left-leaning contemporary radio rap and R'n'B as it is the submerged kaleidoscopic swirl of the early 4AD dream factory.
Formed at the tail-end of 2008 as a bedroom recording project, Small Black first made waves with their eponymous debut EP. Recorded in the attic of singer Josh Kolenik's uncle's remote Long Island beach-house/surfboard workshop, it served as an ideal introduction to the group with its pulsing patchwork synths and addictive, stay-gold hooks that seemed to unfurl themselves gradually over repeated listens. Slightly more immediate and polished than its predecessor, Small Black's new album New Chain remains a continuation of this contrasting ethos — a delirious smudging of the lines between melancholy and nostalgia, tension and celebration, unabashed pop music and experimentation. "It's always been a question for us," explains keyboardist/songwriter Ryan Heyner, "of how much to push it, how much to reveal. I find a lot of the best music creeps up on you."
New Chain was predominantly written, recorded and fully realized in the seclusion of sleepy, suburban Delaware, where bassist/songwriter Juan Pieczanski spent his childhood summers., and then mixed by Nicolas Vernhes (Animal Collective, Dirty Projectors) at his Rare Book Room studio in New York City. The group spent the hours in Delaware as Kolenik says "trying to take the excitement and stimulus of NYC to a place far from distractions, where it could be organized properly." The effect of the transposition between city life and the isolation could explain the way the record's full-blown party jams are tempered with weirder moments of longing and enigma, and conversely, how its more discordant, foggy moments conceal huge moments of melody.
A thinker's party record? A party-hardy thinker's record? Not sure. All we know is that New Chain is one of the most involved, intriguing and effortlessly human collections of organic pop music you're likely to hear this or any other year.