From the monthly archives: "January 2006"

Feature and review originally published in Amplifier issue #52, January-February 2006.  Written by Brian Baker.


Those of us who came of age in the 1970s (and have the gray hair and memory lapses as proof) would never have bet the rent that progressive rook would experience a resurgence and reinvention in the new millennium. Once you’ve ingested monkey tranquilizers and gone coma at a Yes concert during “Bales of Psychotropic Doldrums” or whatever the hell they called that drivel, the sheen sort of peels off the genre.
Thankfully, there’s a new generation creating music that swells and soars with the same visceral energy that the best prog had to offer in the ’70s. A good many Of them, particularly Philadelphia’s Chromelodeon, are creating this new symphonic rock without the benefit (or onus) of being influenced by the genre’s forefathers. “We’re more of an epic instrumental thing,” says Chromeiodeon synthesist Ryan Soloby between teaching assignments in audio production as a graduate student at Temple University.
“We’re all obsessed with video games and that’s what really influences us. We didn’t set out to do video game music, but its almost inevitable.”
Chromelodeon began when its members were high school students, but the octet’s roots go back further. “It’s a classic case of almost growing up together,” says Soloby. It helps with the dynamics, because we’re unbelievably used to each other. There’s not really any surprises.”
Although the band’s members have been friends for over a decade in some cases, Chromelodeon came together under its current banner about four years ago, after testing material under a different name, and then doing a demo as Chromelodeon in 2001. Two years ago, the band released its compelling debut EP, In the Year 20XX, and they’ve recently followed up with Heart of Sawdust, a more streamlined execution of their musical vision. “The first one had vocoders and theremins and all kinds of stuff on it,” says Soloby.
Although any number of sonic parallels could be drawn with Chromelodeon (including Yes, King Crimson, Kansas, and Curved Air), Soloby’s credit to video soundtracks remains steadfast; the band has recorded an unreleased front-to-back cover of the Ninia Garden II music bed and Chromelodeon has been able to tour nationally through monetary sponsorship offered by the underground gaming/recording community. “We don’t have a huge national following, but everywhere we go there are always a couple of kids who have been waiting to see us for the longest time,” says Soloby.
For Heart of Sawdust, Chromelodeon stripped away as much excess as possible in an effort to approximate the band’s visceral projected-lights-and-video stage presentation.
“We also went for a slightly more live feel as opposed to a track-by-track layering. The way we recorded 20XX, with over-dubbing and overlaying, gave it this prog feel and that’s not what we really were going for. Heart of Sawdust has a more orchestral feel. People see us live, then head for the merchandise. The feedback we get is that they love it, but they love our live show more – which is a compliment, because so many times groups can’t play what they played on the album because of Autotune and overdubbing.”
In a similarly reductionist attempt to distance itself from the often imagery-dense prog perspective, the only titles that have been assigned to the songs on Heart of Sawdust are their corresponding track numbers, “One” through “Six.” “That came about because the songs were written before any context was applied to them,” says Soloby. “We felt like giving them titles after the fact wouldn’t do them any justice.”
As an instrumental outfit, Chromelodeon also deftly avoids the prog trap of having a showy singer performing bad conceptual poetry tarted up with overly dramatic music. It’s a pitfall of whitch the band is all too aware. “We’re trying to avoid that singular musician aspect,” says Soloby. “It’s always a part of a whole, not separated.”

Heart of Sawdust Review

On their 2004 debut, In the Year 20XX, Philly octet Chromelodeon showed themselves to be brilliant students of prog rock, extracting the passion and restraint and excising the overarching dramatics and unnecessary bombast of the form. With their sophomore release, Heart of Sawdust, Chromelodeon wisely follows suit with another succinct disc of orchestral rock delights. Once again eschewing the need for conceptually grandiose lyrics (epic storytelling is how most prog bands of the ’70s eventually disappeared up their own asses), the music is left to do its work. The band fills every available space with a virtual symphony of electronics and the standard paraphernalia of classic rock without the accompanying cliches. The songs on Heart of Sawdust avoid any implied meaning that could be found in actual titles, and are instead named numerically from “One” to “Six”. It’s a daring gambit, but in this vacuum of association, the soaring music is free to swirl around the listener’s conscious mind without the baggage of specious sword-and-sorcery contextualism to distract from the enjoyment of the music in its purest form. If the thought of prog rock leaves you cold, give Chromelodeon a fair shake; you’ll be surprised at just how punk their prog can get.

Written by justincharlesharlan, published on on January 11 2006.

Recently, Philadelphia based Nintendo-rock octet, Chromelodeon decided to create an alterego to release their arrangements of music from video game classics. To the average listener, one may think their original music was composed for video games in the first place, and whether or not this may be true, Chromelodeon came to a point where they decided their original music and their covers needed separate identities, this article focusing on their new creation Sprite Slowdown. My only concern in choosing them for an “Under the radar” piece was whether or not they were signed, because I knew they had recently done some work with local label, Bloodlink Records. They reassured me in choosing them:

We’re in a gray area. Still working with Bloodlink on the ongoing press we’re getting for albums through them, but we have no further agreements on projects. In fact, we just finished a new DIY album on our own we’ve very happy with…

We begin with a few questions for the band…

CF: Who is Sprite Slowdown, meaning who is in the band and who plays what? In what way are you related to the band Chromelodeon? Side project?

SS: Its a mirror image of Chromelodeon: same players, but different concept.
We’re trying to differenciate between our original material and video game arrangements. We’ve got four albums, two from each area.

CF: Name a few unsigned bands that you think should be featured in upcoming editions of “Under the radar”.

SS: Harris! I think we still owe them after all we’ve put them through the past couple years, all the more reason to prove their good intentions overall. Very rarely do we sense that type of sincerity and devotion they show, while also making great music. [They were featured in Someone sign these guys” and will undoubted be featured here soon.]

CF: What was the best show you’ve ever played and/or favorite band you’ve played with?

SS: This is a toss up… we played before Yo La Tengo at Culture Shock Fest, in front of a couple thousand. We had a movie theater sized screen behind us with all our video game visuals projected onto it, it was incredible. But, the other best overall show had to be our 3rd US tour homecoming show, headlining the First Unitarian Church here in Philly. Our friends The Minibosses came back on stage to do a dual-band encore, it was ridiculous but epic. The crowd was close to sold out, and there’s still some audio/video bootlegs floating around the internet somewhere…. [The Minibosses are also AWESOME! Readers need to check them out at]

CF: Besides music, what else are you interested in?

SS: Would video games sound redundant? Video games, yes.


Before I unpause and go back to the interview, I’d like to conclude with a few words about Sprite Slowdown. I have worked with both the boys of Chromelodeon/Sprite Slowdown on several occassions and have seen them countless times. In both instances, their live performance is epic. Most recently, I did a show with them as SS in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia. I was very impressed by their wide array of video game covers. Who knew that the them from Echo the Dolphin 2 could sound so damn good? Make a point to visit their web page:


CF: I hear that as a band you enjoy drinking (Sparks). Is this true?

To the question above, there only response was this:

CF: Kiss up to the writer of this column. Who was the coolest promoter you’ve ever worked with?

SS: Of all the ground we’ve covered, we look forward most to hitting Denver, Colorado. Josh from Monkeymania Warehouse always takes care of us, the shows are consistently amazing. He’s also from the band Friends Forever, a 3 piece that tours guerilla style by playing shows outside of venues literally within their open van, while shooting fireworks at the audience. Also,
“sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeet!”. [Sound like a great guy, but you missed the point, this question was STRICTLY for my ego, I was an awesome promoter guys… C’MON!]

CF: We here at The Filter, pride ourselves on covering important breaking world events, with that in mind what do you think of the news that Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards are getting divorced?

SS: Weird Al’s portrayal of Rambo in “UHF” totally beats out Sheen’s impersonation in “Hot Shots”. [Agreed]

CF: And finally, if you were trying to sell your band in 10 words or less, what would you say?

SS: Mike Tyson’s Punch Out.


Thanks for reading, and remember to email me at with the subject “Under the radar” if you are interested in being featured.

At long last, our new album has been released! SPRITE SLOWDOWN represents the other side of Chromelodeon… our video game side project, specifically. Ryan and Dino have personally recorded the project from start to finish, and we’re taking the album and live material to our favorite national video game convention this weekend in VA…MAGFEST! Otherwise, our cd release show is next week, with more shows following soon. Thanks to all for your patience. Check out some preview tracks, as well as an online feature.


  1. Zillion [6:03]
  2. Sonic & Knuckles [2:25]
  3. Balloon Kid [3:33]
  4. Ashtar [2:02]
  5. Finale [3:04]
  6. U.N. Squadron [4:52]
  7. Ecco The Dolphin 2 [2:02]
  8. Wanderers From Ys [4:20]
  9. Doom [5:57]
  10. Voder [5:29]




Concert Photos:

Candid Photos: