Chrome Hoof – Crush Depth (Southern)

Navigating an impressive range of sounds and stylistic cues, there's a level of unpredictability that for some, might be unsettling and for others, a complete treat

Released Jun 8th, 2010 via Southern / By Simon Harper
Chrome Hoof – Crush Depth (Southern) London’s Chrome Hoof have long been one of the more visually arresting bands you’re ever likely to come across. Originally formed by Leo Smee (a member of doom metallers Cathedral) and his brother Milo, the ‘Hoof look like the delinquent offspring of Funkadelic, with all the glitter, sequins and shiny futuristic appendages of which George Clinton would surely approve.

There’s even a pronounced P-funk edge to the ensemble’s own intergalactic vision, marrying heavy metal rhythms and riffs to electronica, jazz and mutant disco-pop, with all of these elements coalescing on their latest full-length release, Crush Depth. Easy listening this certainly isn’t – Chrome Hoof navigate an impressive range of sounds and stylistic cues, veering between destinations without so much as sign-posting where they’re going. It’s that level of unpredictability which might make this an unsettling and unrewarding listen for some, but those who stick with it will be in for a treat.

If electro-jazz hybrid ‘Vapourise’ is likely to divide listeners – that slap bass will either have you running for the hills or donning ice-white sneakers and high-buttoned shirts – then this third album from the starry-eyed collective is immediately engrossing, with funk-metal crossover ‘Crystalline’ giving a good idea of what’s in store.

Swirling synths duel with gigantic-sounding drums and throbbing bass, offset by fluttering strings and topped off with the yelps and shrieks of vocalist Lola Olafisoye, whose presence is beguiling and hypnotic throughout the album’s hour-long duration - she’s simultaneously sassy and creepy on the nocturnal future-funk of ‘Towards Zero’, an eerie approximation of what Kelis’ goth record would sound like.

But the centre-piece of the album is the doom-laden ‘Witches Instruments and Furnaces’, which begins with a brooding bass riff and curiously baroque strings and piano, before morphing into an 11-minute tour de force - a song cycle made up of markedly contrasting sections which somehow manage to fit together, with Olafisoye’s near-seductive vocal being weirdly sensual, while around her there are subtly shifting dynamics and not so subtle changes in volume. Nevertheless, it’s breathtakingly effective.

Drawing on heavyweight psychedelia and prog – as witnessed by fluctuating time signatures and neatly juxtaposed textures – tracks such as ‘Sea Hornet’ incorporate widdly analogue synths as part of a schizophrenic cacophony, but what could potentially be an indulgent mess is leavened by the level of musicianship and the sheer force of personality which pervades every crunching chord, crashing through with a seriously heavy sense of purpose. Crush Depth is truly, madly, completely bonkers, and all the better for it.