Thursday, September 07, 2006

Chroma Key - Dead Air For Radios (1999)

In 1994, keyboardist Kevin Moore left, Dream Theater, a band he had been with since their inception in the mid eighties to take his music in a rather different direction. In Moore's departure, Dream Theater lost their strongest lyricist. His contributions to Dream Theater included Pull Me Under, Surrounded, and Wait For Sleep off their break-out Images & Words album and 6:00, Lie, and the beautiful and dark Space-Dye Vest which, in hindsight was Moore's final farewell to his band and provided a glimpse at the direction he ended up taking his music following his departure.

If one is expecting the heavy metallic crunch of Dream Theater, they'll be sorely disappointed as the direction Moore took was considerably different than the direction Dream Theater has gone since his departure.

In the wake of Moore's departure he's released 3 Chroma Key albums, collaborated with Fates Warning as a guest keyboardist, and released 2 OSI albums with guitarist Jim Matheos of Fates Warning and Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater.

Each of the Chroma Key albums offers something different, but his debut, Dead Air for Radios, is easily the most accessible. One can hear the influences of Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, and even Pink Floyd on many of the tracks of this beautifully ambient CD. Moore seamlessly fuses elements of seventies prog-rock with eighties synth-pop creating a sound that is distinctly his.

While Moore's voice is unremarkable, it's perfect for this style of music which benefits greatly from his understated vocal delivery. The one constant in the songs on this album is that each track isn't so much a song as it is an aural painting and Moore isn't so much a musician as a painter who uses your eardrums as his canvas. His music isn't mere music, it's entire moods. On his own terms, Moore is able to inject a certain emotional ambience that was never fully realized during his tenure in Dream Theater.

The only link one might hear to Moore's work with Dream Theater are his clever lyrics which are just as sharp now as they were then:

from America the Video:
"lost my head in my hotel room when the ground shook
had to choose between the bible and the phone book"

from Colorblind:"stopped in the shade of a road sign
when the sun rose like a bomb
tried to read the simple writing
but the letters came out wrong
it's all white lines to me
but things are getting clearer
i can almost read the writing in the mirror"

from S.O.S.:
"cry blackbird cry over the waves i hear you
coalcovered clouds white snow there they go
ice on your wings songless he sings i hear you
nowhere is home go alone there's a phone"

from On the Page:
"maybe i should write it first
and do the living later
'cause life is so much cleaner on the page"

The only weak spot on the album is the apocalyptic final track, Hell Mary, which sounds out of place in the context of the album as a whole. If you're bored of the same old same old, and looking for something new or different Dead Air for Radios is an excellent place to start.

Related Links
Chroma Key website (you can listen to a stream of the album in its entirety here)
Dead Air for Radios (All Music Guide Review)
O.S.I. Free (Review Revue)

1 comment:

David Amulet said...

Great review. Although Moore's lyrics for DT were fine by me, his keyboard work annoyed me. I liked the less-keyboardy sound of DT's recent albums more than the early stuff. But you make it sound like this one is more ambient that ELP-style keys, so maybe it would work for me.

-- david