Originally published in Origivation Magazine volume 3 issue 4, March 2004.  Written by Robin Parry.

It is a Wednesday night and feels about 30 below in Old City.  At the Khyber, in spite of a four-band bill, the “crowd” consists of employees, band members, those screwing the band members and me.  I am one moment from pulling a Houdini escape act when I glance, empathetically, at the overly exposed stage area and see 8 men appear before a crimson backdrop.  It was not the towering Oscar Wilde like accordion player center stage that glued my feet but instead the hoody cloaked figure sitting on the edge of the stage with a milk crate filled with light effects and finger triggers.  His “play station” was soon to become the master control of a “mystery science theatre” stage sideshow for a band named Chromelodeon.

Suddenly, out of the fridged stillness, like thunder from the Holy Mountain of God, Chromelodeon tore apart the garments of the evening’s common threads with a velvet sword.  Want a visual?  Think Ed Wood.  Campy strobes and frenetic pulsing spots tapped out as in divine trance by a mental whirling dervish with a box.  Opening with a 20-minute song named, appropriately, Adventures in a Haunted House, Chromelodeon created a frighteningly dark, yet comforting dance of divinity.  At it would have been a divine comedy indeed was the music anything less than breathtaking.  But breathtaking it was.  The air was soon filled with harmonic convergence and divergence, microtonal chutes and ladders that guided you on the 43 tone trip to the spheres.  This was hard and gothic in nature.  You could not help but get lost in your own thematic interpretation of the tales being spun by this music.  The multitude of harmonies was more like the sounds from an orchestra than a club band. This was rock opera.  The majesty of the compositions combined with the campy humor of the visual presentation was more than inspired.

Chromelodeon is named after one of the instruments created by Harry Partch.  “We collectively decided on the name and this project itself about 2 years ago, with much respect to the inventor and the instruments conventional use juxtaposed with its creative retooling. The chromelodeon itself is hard to come by (or create), and though we’ve considered acquiring one, its practical use in such a large sized band is somewhat limited, haha.” Say’s one Chromelodeon member who chooses to remain nameless.  The chromelodeon is a keyboard capable of creating four part harmonies with just one key.  Some present day avante artists are known to create chromelodeons by rigging two accordions to achieve the 43 tones per octave.  This band, through use of an accordion, several keyboards, theremin, violins, and guitars appear to create the magic as a unit.  I fear that this band may often get lumped into the “jam band” category though they truly transcend this and most other musical genres. They have been described as “epic” or “soundtrack rock” but still they are more.  My best comparison would be to opera.   This music is intellectual and demands participation from its audience.  I want to study the language with which it was written so as to better appreciate it.

I tried to get the band to give me some information about themselves and this is all I got from my conversation from the nameless one:

“As far as information about us goes, we like to keep relatively mysterious in a humble sense. I appreciate you grasping the fact we desire people to pay attention to the music, and not the musicians themselves, the irony of which for an 8 piece band without vocals is heavy indeed. We all more or less met in a south jersey arcade in the late 80s, and eclectic tastes congealed after many years practicing together.”  

Chromelodeon is, more specifically, Denny Barron, David Chapman, Vinnie Corda, Dino Lionetti, Chris Singer, Ryan Soloby, Danny Tarng, and Eddy Tsang.  They are currently performing shows from Boston to NYC supporting their current CD, “In the Year 20XX”.  This 4 song, approx. 30 minute CD, will astound all but the Justin Timberlake fans amongst you.  Listening to this CD after seeing this band live I would hope to see them next at the Kimmel Center.  They are this large, this extravagant.  This is high art at its finest.

When their ritual performance was complete and their magic well formed in the stale beer ether of the Khyber, the eight holy men seem to slip back into mortals and exit the stage as if nothing extraordinary had occurred.  But we, the small group of witnesses, walk away profoundly changed.

You can find out little more as well as purchase a copy of their masterpiece CD, “In the Year 20XX” from the Chromelodeon web site at www.chromelodeon.com.

-Robin Parry

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