In the 25 years since he left IKON, Michael Aliani has been taking his own darkly musical journey in Chiron, with The Sun Goes Down marking the band’s latest effort after a considerable absence. Produced entirely by Aliani with band mate Leanne Coe, there is a singular flavor to Chiron’s particular brand of darkwave, as each song takes its time to breathe, allowing the instrumental layers to gradually work their way into the ambient space; all the while, Coe’s saxophone accompaniments to Aliani’s luscious baritone create a harmonious synergy that feels both fresh and familiar. This is most evident in the opening “Surrender,” which builds slowly with smooth bass and sparse guitars trickling like raindrops in the mix, but once Aliani sings “Let yourself go” in a higher register during the chorus, one can’t help but be reminded of Depeche Mode circa the Ultra era. Similar motifs appear in songs like “Deep Inside” with its metallic beat and insistent progression, the synths sparkling amid the strums of a slightly atonal bass, Aliani’s repetitions of “Hypnotize” doing just that, and “Darker Days” as somber vocals and analog synth swells are underscored by Dino Molinaro’s tremolo strumming on the bass. Others like “Sadly” and “Frantic” are more danceable electro/goth numbers with staccato stanzas that demand to be shouted along with while losing one’s composure on the dancefloor, while the militant marching drums of “Torn” and “Let Us Begin” add a different character that hints at an explosive release that never quite arrives, Coe’s saxophone on the latter track seeming just slightly incongruent with the cadence of the vocal for an intriguingly ghostly effect.
One rather odd aspect to The Sun Goes Down is Aliani’s overall mix, which though not entirely inconsistent, does seem to place an unusual emphasis on certain elements at specific instances; the drums sometimes come across sharper during a particular break, Coe’s sax and Molinaro’s cello sometimes seem to bleed into one another (although that seems entirely deliberate since the effect is rather intoxicating), and Aliani’s voice seems so present through the speakers that one might think he was in the room. These are hardly detriments, but they are somewhat jarring on the first listen. However, an added bonus comes with Jean-Marc Lederman’s complete reworking of “Darker Days,” the echoing piano chords and Aliani’s sublime voice giving way to swaths of electronic noise and distorted guitar, all building to what becomes an excellent piece of goth/rock. Perhaps Chiron should consider working further with Lederman in a production capacity on a future release? Nonetheless, The Sun Goes Down is a fine effort from a band that possesses a unique voice in the genre, bearing all its hallmarks, yet standing in a league of its own; here’s hoping the next Chiron record won’t take another seven years.