Sound — 9
CHON is a virtually unknown band, but they've garnered some attention on their recent touring, as well as the recent release of their single, "Story," back in February. The band was recently signed to Sumerian Records for their debut, which has been available for pre-order since mid-February. CHON's name is derived from the acronym used for the four elements found in living things - carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. The members of the band include Mario Camarena on guitar, Erick Hansel on guitar, Drew Pelisek on bass and vocals, and Nathan Camarena on drums. They've released 2 EPs previously, which are available for purchase online in digital format. "Grow" is the band's first full length studio album, and contains 12 tracks with a runtime of approximately 35 minutes.
The album opens up with the instrumental piece, "Drift," which is very short at just under 40 seconds, and helps to set the mood for the album. Next is the album's lead single, "Story," which has some very vocal-like melodies being played by the guitar and the drums and bass having some definite jazz vibes going on. Actually, much of the album falls somewhere between the jazz of Snarky Puppy and the alt metal of Animals as Leaders, though that isn't to say the band sounds derivative of either of those bands. "Fall" opens up with some fairly aggressive guitar and drums compared to "Story," with the guitar almost sounding like funk-style strumming. About halfway through "Fall," the track changes directions and embodies a wholly different vibe, letting the drums lead for a moment. Next is "Book (featuring Matt Garstka)," which is probably my favorite track for the drums and bass alone. Matt Garstka is the newer drummer for Animals as Leaders, who has been with Animals as Leaders since 2012. "Can't Wait" has a really cool jazzy opening, as well as the first track on the album with vocals. Vocals are credited with the band on Drew Pelisek, the bass player. There is a nice slow-burning groove going on with "Can't Wait" that made me want to go get my bass out and play along. "Suda" is built, in large part, around a very nervous schizoid-sounding guitar riff. There is some interesting things going on occasionally in the track with the timing, as well.
"Knot" transitions smoothly, throughout the track, between different sounds/vibes, almost as if the song is made up of several very short movements, which is essentially true. "Moon" is one of the shorter tracks on the album, at under 1.5 minutes, which is a good thing as it is also the most repetitive track on the album. "Splash" has some of my favorite drumming from the song on it, with the drums reminding me of the song title - helping me actually envision what the song is about. "Perfect Pillow" is one of the heavier songs on the album, and one that just sounds fun. It is a good example of an instrumental song where all the musicians really sound like they're having fun with it. This is another one where the guitar sometimes takes on some very vocal-like qualities in melody. "Echo" is another track with some actual vocals, and also another track with a slow-burning groove going on. There is some cool stuff going on with the backing vocals on this one, as well. The album closes out with the track, "But (featuring Matt Garstka)," which makes this the second and final song on the album to include the Animals as Leaders drummer. I really enjoy the bass tone on this one, as it has a really nice growl to it without getting too aggressive for the song.
Lyrics — 7
There are very few lyrics on the album - essentially "Can't Wait" and "Echo." I'm assuming that bassist, Drew Pelisek, is on vocals as he is credited with the band's vocals on their Bandcamp page. He does a passable job, and it works for the songs on the album. I would think if they were to decide to do more tracks with vocals, then a new primary vocalist might be in order. When there are lyrics in the album, they aren't overly complex, but instead stick with pretty simple ideas. As an example, from "Can't Wait" you have: "Trying to find you, you left me lost/ But I just want you home now/ Though, I'll see you again but/ I can't wait forever." Most of the rest of the lyrics in the song are repetitions of those lines.
Overall Impression — 8
I think that CHON is probably the missing link I needed between modern jazz and modern instrumental music. I could listen to CHON for ages before I would get tired of them, but they shine the most when the bass and drums get locked into a slow groove. My favorite tracks from the album would probably be "Can't Wait" (despite the lyrics, which I wasn't a fan of), "Book" for it's awesome bass and drum groove, and "Splash" which really highlights Nathan Camarena's drumming. I would definitely recommend this band and album to anyone who can appreciate modern jazz or instrumental music in general. This is definitely a solid album - the best instrumental (mostly) album that I think I've heard this year.