Chrome Sparks (aka Jeremy Malvin) knows how to make his tracks shine. His eponymous debut album, released on Counter Records (a Ninja Tune imprint), boasts a sparkling sound: a euphony of hip-hop, house and bright-beaming synthwork. The record is the culmination of several years spent between Malvin’s Navy Yard, Brooklyn studio and a secluded cabin in upstate New York. He spent a month there to escape the distractions of the city, and to distill his process during what became an intensive period of creativity. A far cry from supporting Diplo’s Major Lazer at the recent Mad Decent Block Party in Islamabad (Pakistan). The album itself features collaborations with Australian duo Kllo (Ghostly), Body Language’s Angelica Bess (who’s previously collaborated with Machinedrum) - Their voices reimagined through Malvin’s brightly-daubed kaleidoscope of influences.
His debut long-player arrives after a series of much-tipped singles and EPs. After self-released, breakout track ‘Marijuana’, his music landed on Australia’s Future Classic label (Flume, Chet Faker, amongst others). He’s since released three singles for Counter Records (home to ODESZA and Maribou State), including 2016’s ‘All Or Nothing’ (also featuring Bess), which was supported both sides of the Atlantic by Jason Bentley on KCRW and Annie Mac on BBC Radio 1. Support for his music has also come from Pitchfork, FADER, Dancing Astronaut and Indie Shuffle.
The album is the product of an obsessive approach to production as much it is about a restless hunt for new ideas. On ‘Still Think’, for example, the vocoder vocals and saccharine melodies show a predilection for straight-for-the-jugular songwriting. But there’s also a lush texture and intricacy to the synths and arpeggios which underpin the track, hinting at the studio gear – in particular, a trusty Moog synth – which was a vital part of how he made the record. He took a huge stash of gear with him to the cabin, and spent the month feverishly navigating their possibilities.
That inventive studio mindset also resulted in ‘I Just Wanna’, a track whose origins grew out of a set of sine wave patterns. Starting with “pure sound”, as Malvin puts it, he took those steady, oscillating curves as the song’s jumping off point. Beginning with those basic building blocks, it’s a methodical approach that leads to ear-pricking results. Patiently-built tension, buffeted by carefully-accrued layers of melody and bass pressure, lead up to a euphoric, melancholy-tinged crescendo.
Elsewhere, he’s adept at putting his collaborators centre stage. Tracks are honed around the strengths of the vocalists, rooted in the genuine to-and-fro of synergy. In ‘What’s It Gonna Take’, Angelica Bess’ vocals are framed by steady-bouncing, trap-tilted drums. Swirling around the silky, magnetic shine Bess adds to the track, Malvin amplifies the feeling with minor-chord melodies and swells of atmospheric pads.
There’s an eye to the dancefloor in much of the record, too. Not least on ‘Wings’, where a straight up, steady kick drum is the track’s foundation. A vehicle for a rainbow-bright splash of ideas, it threads together harp-plucked arpeggios, whooshing sound design and thundering blasts of low-end bass. Malvin has previously remixed the likes of Chet Faker and Porter Robinson, and so it’s no surprise to hear him adept at making club-minded productions. It’s also a logical next step from the ‘Parallelism’ EP, released three years ago, which was influenced by him first going to clubs and becoming more immersed in dance music.
It’s the latest, fullest document of Malvin’s vision as a musician. Growing up in Pittsburgh, he moved to Ann Arbor where he attended The University of Michigan before settling east in his current home of Brooklyn. He’s already covered a lot of ground to get to this point. He’s played sold out shows throughout North America, Australia, New Zealand and Asia, with a co-headline North American tour lined up with Machinedrum, worldwide dates are sure to follow. His is a creative mindset shaped by live performance as much as studio tinkering. It’s a foundation that’s allowed him to adeptly craft so many diffuse ideas into a standout, wide-ranging debut.