Review Summary: A glass of icy-cold pink lemonade by the beach
At this point, CHON’s identity has been well-established. 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. And no matter how static such a formula may get, it will remain pleasant at the minimum. Had CHON opted entirely for complacency, Homey
would still be an easily digestible album, albeit one leaving very little of an aftertaste.
Initially, it would seem that Homey
mostly hits the standard marks of a CHON album. “Sleepy Tea” is just as its title says, a refreshing beverage during an afternoon lull; 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 - 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; “Checkpoint” inserts 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; you’d be hard-pressed to find something blatantly wrong with their core.
But that’s not it, of course. On Homey
, 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 - it’s 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 - 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 think they work: CHON’s core principles of songwriting are 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 - refined carbohydrates with sprinkles, so to speak. CHON could have chosen to pursue the path of simple pleasures, but they’ve thrown in new ingredients into the mix and it’s more than sweet.