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Chrome Canyon is Morgan Z, a synth fanatic who is one of the most recent signings of California indie stalwart Stones Throw Records. Z’s incarnation as Chrome Canyon is rather new (his debut album, Elemental Themes, was released in October), but the roots of his retrofuturist sound stretch back to luminaries like Vangelis, Wendy Carlos and Tangerine Dream.
Z began playing piano at age six, but it wasn’t until he acquired his first Roland Juno-60 that he began to explore the vast spacey reaches of analog synthesis. The result was a headlong tumble down the electronic rabbit hole, prompting Pitchfork to state, “Z works on a cinematic scale that ranges from over-the-top to the completely ludicrous.” As it turns out, subtlety might not be Z’s thing.
Then again, so what? Z admits that he is making the kind of “unabashed nerd music” he’d held back from previous projects, like the glam-rock outfit Apes & Androids and his satirical sex-funk band, Blackmail—although, to be honest, it doesn’t seem like he was holding all that much back. In the studio, Z alone masterminds his sonic concoctions, but onstage he is joined by a bassist and drummer, all three silhouetted against some pretty nifty lighting effects—Z once worked as lighting technician for Brooklyn indie-rockers Amazing Baby. He stresses that fantasy is an important element of his shows…and really, if you’re going to be unabashedly nerdy, what’s better than a little touch of fantasy?—Kristen Zwicker