Homey - CHON
Genre: Prog/Math Rock
Review by Steve Jenkins
At this point, CHON’s have created their own identity that has garnered them quite a strong following. Throughout the years they’ve cultivated their blend of light-hearted jazzy math rock, the kind that evokes imagery of sun-drenched beaches and sparkling ocean water. No matter how static such a formula may get, it will always remain pleasant and never depressive. Had CHON opted entirely for a safe option or complacency, Homey would still be an easily digestible album.
Initially, it would seem that Homey mostly hits the standard marks of a CHON album. First single from the album, 'Sleepy Tea', is just as its title says, a refreshing beverage during a lazy Sunday afternoon in the sun. It’s also the first exposure of the crisp, slightly resonant guitar tone of Homey that slots into the open-sounding production. Curiously, the guitars seem to be mixed a little lower than usual, but this may make more sense as the album goes on. 'Waterslide' flows as fluidly as its namesake and it’s the relaxed, breezy track that we’ve come to expect from the band. For the most part, Homey still consists of the customary instrumental pieces that CHON produce, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, with 'Checkpoint' inserting some lively soloing that makes me recall some of Plini’s more adventurous moments, 'Here and There' finds its groove to a syncopated beat, and 'The Space' employs playful pitch-shifting that might be a fun tribute to archetypal space-themed songs. 'Continue?' is particularly clever with its quizzical upwards runs, which leave a mark of uncertainty that fits entirely with the question being asked. It’s difficult not to enjoy, at least to some degree, the effortlessly upbeat feel of such tracks that you’d be hard-pressed to find something blatantly wrong with their core.
But that’s not it, of course. CHON experiment on four particular tracks, each with a featured artist or two. These are songs which are decidedly outside of habitual territory: unusually, they are driven by electronic beats, and the guitars often stand aside to provide support to the glitchy synthetic landscape. 'Berry Street' (feat. GoYama) and 'Feel This Way' (feat. Giraffage) are sample-centred, whereas 'Nayhoo' (feat. Masego & Lophile) has dedicated verses; 'Glitch' (feat. ROM) is the only instrumental piece out of the four. I’m particularly fond of 'Nayhoo' and its vocal presence which adds an extra touch of sensuality that came as a surprise to me on my first listen. The fact that these tracks fit coherently into Homey should count as a success for CHON as they’re stylistically distinct, veering into the realms of hip-hop, trip-hop and R&B, yet they seamlessly continue the atmosphere of the rest of the album. These unconventional tracks are strategically scattered throughout Homey to provide variety, and I that works wonders, as it leaves CHON’s core principles of songwriting still intact, but they have now been applied in a way that demonstrates flexibility.
The album artwork of Homey encapsulates it well - it’s warm and sunny, inviting, and not without particular irregularities that happen to work in its favour. In an alternative universe this could have been nothing more than easy-going music with just the right amount of complexity to prevent it from immediately going stale with so many tasty treats sprinkled throughout the album. CHON could have chosen to pursue the path of simple pleasures, but they’ve thrown new ingredients into the mix and it’s more than sweet. Hungry yet? Chow down on some CHON.
9 out of 10 stars.
Homey is out now via Sumerian Records.
Check out the video for 'Continue?' below