Restored 06 April 2017, originally published 16 March, 2015
Once in a while, a band with staying power comes around. What is it that gives staying power? A few things come to mind: quality, variation, and perhaps most important, consistency. But for 10 years? Is this enough to keep an artist going for a decade and beyond? Maybe more is needed, maybe command of time itself. It may seem far-fetched, but there’s at least one artist that exudes all these qualities, possibly even dominion over the fabric of time. That artist is Chronos.
Not to be confused with Cronus, the Titan father of Zeus, Chronos is sometimes thought of as Father Time, one of our universe’s transcendent entities.
Getting back to Chronos the band, they’re a five-piece Russian act headed by Mr. Nick Klimenko, himself an accomplished composer and sound engineer. The rest of the band’s cast (according to Chronos’ official site LINK TO PAGE) includes Alexey Ansheles on guitars, Galina Schetinina on cello, Maria Lazareva on violin, and Maria Karimova providing vocals. They’ve been around since 2004. In that time they’ve released 7 full-length albums with a myriad of other EPs and remixes, not including two releases that I will discuss in this review. Over the past decade, they’ve been a part of at least a dozen different record labels, among them Altar, Beats & Pieces, and Cosmicleaf. And Chronos has collaborated with the likes of Aes Dana, Shulman, and Koan, some of the biggest in the ambient/chill out scene.
Clearly, we’re not discussing mere mortals. These men and women have elevated their craft beyond the mundane and into the realm of the exceptional. In terms of genre, there is no box big enough to capture their sound. From chill out and ethnic electronica to downtempo, psybient, ambient, trip-hop, space music, and IDM, their albums contain a little bit of everything, or a lot if you consider their entire catalogue. It is from that catalogue that Chronos has assembled a three-part anthology, a celebration of their tenure on Earth thus far, which is to be released for free on Mystic Sound Records.
The first part, Spiritus, was released the 6th of November, 2014. It consists of ten tracks which exude “soft rhythms, ambient atmospheres, and delicate melodies” all backed and magnified by a plethora of live instrumentation.
The new listener will surely enjoy the likes of “Mystery Of Time”. At nearly ten minutes in length, “Mystery Of Time” is more than enough to get the gist of the mystical side of Chronos. A deep, reverberating hum opens the track, before tribal flutes and string instruments join in. The ebb and flow of time makes itself felt with the introduction of bells, percussion, and chanting. Around the 3-minute mark, the track’s pace quickens with a soft melody and the percussion’s steadily increasing intensity. Just before the half-way point, we ascend into the heavens with whooshing stars and echoing timbres, and before long we move into IDM territory. The music’s stereo quality is highly evident in headphones so I do recommend listening with them, but you certainly won’t miss too much from the experience with set of room speakers. The track’s intensity increases until the final minute of the track when it fades, leaving room for a quieter melody to carry the track to completion.
The second part, just released February 25, 2015, is called Technologia. As you might guess, Technologia emphasizes the digital aspect of Chronos’ work. From Technologia, I suppose I would choose “Planetarium (Aquarius Edit)” to showcase. Once again, we open with a hum, but this one is distinctly more digital and is surrounded by a rotating element. Contrasting pitch and tone is important throughout the track. We hear squeaks and squiggles, bubbling and bursting, throbbing and pounding. A descending xylophone introduces a heavy synth that leads into something of a cosmic cavern filled with harmonic ghosts and unfamiliar apparitions. There’s dripping water, whistling insects, and driving melodies, all of which builds to a point of almost overwhelming intensity before pulling back just to keep us conscious enough to enjoy the fade out.
Maybe I should have waited for the final album to be released, but I felt these were too good to go unmentioned, especially if we can expect another several months to pass before the final installment.
Update 06 April, 2017
Since this article’s original publication, Chronos completed the trilogy with the release of Animo on 01 September, 2015. Animo exemplifies the core of Chronos in a dozen remastered and remixed tracks released over the course of Chronos’ career. As with the rest of their catalogue, expect expansive, cinematic soundscapes that seem to grow out of Silence itself. Synthetic meets organic in pulsing beats, soaring rhythms, and a thousand tiny details that brighten the experience like fireflies in the night.
One of the more outstanding tracks is “Time Keeper”. You don’t know it yet, but “Time Keeper” is a quest. You begin at sea, wandering among the waves, stumbling to shore. In the distance, you see a great mountain, tall and inviting, and from the mountain you hear a terrific voice, an enigmatic flute, and myriad bells and chimes. Before you realize it, you’ve been swept away toward the mountain, bourn by a celestial force that wraps you up inside and out and drives you on. At the slopes of the mountain, you’re carried by a synth rhythm up and up and up… When you awake, you find yourself high in the mountain where you come face to face with the Time Keeper himself. He tells you, “The only limit in your life is your mind.”
The Time Keeper goes on his way, leaving you with this thought, played off by a sitar, digeridoo, and synthesizers.
As an aside, I put some thought into that sentiment, “The only limit in your life is your mind.” My first thought was this implied my life is limited by the extent of my imagination. And I thought that was interesting, if cliché. But I kept thinking and realized that’s not what it means at all. It means your mind itself limits you. The implications of that are far reaching, and nothing if not controversial. To me it means relying on my conscious mind to tell me everything about the Universe around me is what limits me. Not that I should never use it, just that I shouldn’t rely on it entirely.
Ultimately, Chronos produced a spectacular collection of their best work and gave it away for free. You’d be a fool not to experience it yourself.
Chronos – Spiritus – “Mystery Of Time”
Chronos – Technologia – “Planetarium (Aquarius Edit)”
Chronos – Animo – “Time Keeper”