Photo by Noah Kalina
The future never came. The year 2000 arrived, a new millennium was born, and yet we were not greeted with hover-boards. Our computers did not sprout legs and profess to love us. Enter Chrome Canyon. If we can indeed recover yesterday’s fantasy of what tomorrow would (should) be, then Chrome Canyon is the temporal technician for the job. The solo project of New York artist Morgan Z, Chrome Canyon creates analog synth-powered epics that move between eras past and ages imagined to create the perfect score for an alternate now.
Morgan’s formative music memories were beamed in through the living room TV set — Vangelis’ Blade Runner score, Wendy Carlos via Tron, Giorgio Moroder’s work on Cat People. He spent his youth on the outskirts of southern California’s San Fernando Valley. His folks had him on piano by 6. At 16, he moved into that same living room and gave his bedroom over to housing his collected gear.
Somewhere between the avant-garde compositions he wrote while studying jazz at NYC’s New School, a college job selling keyboards at Sam Ash in Times Square, and the satirical sex-funk band he founded on the side, his destiny was taking shape. For three years, Morgan played in the glammy electro outfit Apes & Androids, but when that ended, he retreated to his private Brooklyn studio where he began to amass analog synthesizers at an obsessive rate.
Then the remixes began pouring forth. Phoenix, Passion Pit, and a commissioned remix for Foster the People — their hits reemerging with a healthy dusting of metallic sheen, glowing neon pink and alarm clock green. Then came deranged disco edits of soul-jazz master George Benson and synthpop pioneers Yellow Magic Orchestra, Chrome Canyon’s profile growing as Morgan further blurred past, present and future.
Now, Stones Throw is set to release Chrome Canyon’s debut album, Elemental Themes. The inaugural set is blessed with solid circuitry and an organic core: not only those analog synths, but live drums, bass, guitar and Theremin run through hand-built compressors, composed and arranged into a living, breathing whole. Elemental Themes was one of the last works mastered by Nilesh Patel, the engineer behind classic albums by the likes of Air, Bjork, and Daft Punk. The end result is something wondrously both in and out of time, and a cinematic experience without the cinema.