In “I am Europe”, Gonzales’ brilliant lyrics metaphorized major European cities and countries within a catchy Boys Noize soundscape. At the time, having lived in and travelled around Europe for a decade, Gonzales explained that he still had an “outsider” view of European history and culture, and that his lyrics simply reflected what he observed. Fast-forward another decade and Gonzales appears to find himself back in the country that formed the genesis of his ethereal Solo Piano—but this time, he’s not an outsider anymore, having lived about half his life in Europe. He’s not necessarily an insider either but was likely looking for a new challenge that would drive the authenticity that can only stem from a beginner’s mind, and in the case of “French Kiss”, capturing Gonzales’ deep lyrical wit completely in a non-native language (i.e., France” French—as opposed to Quebecois) was likely a formidable—and slightly risky—task.
A ‘crossfader’ is a convenient left/right control on the front of most DJ mixers that is invaluable to mixing tracks, since it allows the DJ to control just how much of one song is heard at the same time as another. Move the crossfader all the way over to one side, and only one music source is playing. Slap it back, and the other source is heard. Leave it somewhere in-between, and both songs can be heard simultaneously. An experienced DJ cues up songs generally close in tempo and in the same key, and deftly matches the tempo and beats such that when the slider is moved to the centre, a new song emerges that is a creative, seamless and delightful blend of the two.
This DJ spirit certainly seems to have been at play in Plastikman and Gonzales new collaborative album Consumed In Key, where Plastikman’s 30-year old classic Consumed is the fortunate recipient of Gonzales’ piano interpretations—and the results are stunning. We’ll dive deep into all aspects of the album, but first, a closer look at the uncanny parallelism of the Plastikman/Gonzales timeline.
It took me one year to write about this album. When “A Very Chilly Christmas” came out, I was simply too overwhelmed with emotions. When I say I love Christmas music, don’t imagine an American tourist accent, but rather an R’n’B type timbre. 9 years ago, Andrew and I (together we are “SoloGonzales”) compiled a wish list of favourite things from our favourite artist. One of them said “A Christmas album”. So when he actually did it, its beauty blew me away – and the fact that Gonz saved Christmas (music). Continue reading
When the hair on your arm is in a state of permanent erection and your eyes become instantly wet, you know you’re experiencing something extraordinary. In this case, it was the ménage à trois of some of the greatest piano artists of our time at the prestigious Rheingau Musik Festival: Chilly Gonzales, the fierce musical polymath, Igor Levit, the courageous classical interpreter, and the epitome of lyrical, Malakoff Kowalski. Continue reading
“Enya: A Treatise on Unguilty Pleasures” – review and reflection
It’s been almost 9 months now, since the virus has turned the world upside down. Time, in which Chilly Gonzales birthed a song with Gary Barlow called “Oh What a Day” (alongside Barry Manilow on the same album), recorded a Christmas album and wrote a book about Enya. Some people would call every single element of each “bad taste” initially. Why? Because what we wear, like and listen to is a form of social demarcation. Take the typical hipster as an example: “somebody trying too hard to be different by rejecting anything that is deemed popular. [...] hipsters aren’t actually different at all, they’re just people that are snobbier and more annoying about their taste in ‘alternative’ things, which are all popular now thanks to the other hipsters.” (Urban Dictionary) The hipster is the extreme representation of a trap we fall prey to in different forms when we transition from innocent, uninfluenced children to beings who have learned about effect, reaction and manipulation. In an attempt to be cool, more distinct and outclass others, we deny things we actually love, and intellectually adopt what we think we should like. We foster those well-groomed pets in the rational chamber of our brains and cage the wild spirits that once lived in our souls and nurtured our emotions in the forbidden “guilt box”. The book is a plea to rerelease our authentic, pre-adolescent, guilt-free selves – or rather that’s the afflatus I draw from it. Continue reading
For most of us, hard work achieves short-term goals that will likely be consumed and seen by a few people — ourselves, co-workers, friends, and so on. Even people whose work is seen by millions of people know that change is relatively constant; web designs that work today will be overrun in a few months, and authors can publish second editions. Imagine you had only one shot to create something to be consumed by millions of people. Continue reading
It appears that Gonzales took his own “Entertainist” lyrics to heart; Solo Piano III represents a gorgeous evolution of solo piano music – a way forward that attracts new fans without alienating current ones. In our eyes (or ears), Solo Piano III is the future; it leads the way into a world filled with musical craftsmanship and beautiful harmonies, where there is time to gaze into the distance and contemplate life, to love, cry, and (of course) have a good laugh. Continue reading
Tomorrow is the day we have all been waiting for: Solo Piano III will finally be here. Fortunately, we were at the premiere in Geneva. Unfortunately, Gonzo didn’t play the full album – however: Fortunately, the few pieces made my soul rejoice. Unfortunately, the Ostinato made me aware I’ll never ever reach heavenly Aretha’s voice. Fortunately, Gonzo gone Beast for a minute, played the drums like the most freakin’ Muppet. Unfortunately, my amateur rhymes are just a rapper’s spit turned into foam. Fortunately, this idea here killed the white paper syndrome. Unfortunately, “Fortunately, Unfortunately” was the first and only “Soft Power” song he played live in ages. Fortunately, it’s a (re-)start – those pieces belong to the stages.
I know this sounds much better in its original form, but it expresses what the whole concert made obvious: Gonzo embraces his whole oeuvre like never before. The upcoming album is not only a sign of the times, but a statement from a musical humanist.
Back in April 2013, we covered an interview Gonzales had with “Sud Ouest” (a regional French magazine). Within the interview, he indicated that the “inherently imperfect” sound of the piano sounds even more perfect to our ears, and added that there will, “no doubt be a Solo Piano III or a Solo Piano IV album.” Four years later, we’re happy to say that all signs are pointing to Gonzales actively working on Solo Piano III. The first hint we saw was a Twitter response Gonzales sent to someone who had a question:
@ClaraJeffery working on 3 as we speak!
— Chilly Gonzales (@chillygonzales) March 12, 2017
Very rarely are we treated to a nexus of talent that echoes the great duos: Bacharach and David, Webber and Rice, Morrissey and Marr, to name a few. The inability for critics and music services to “pigeonhole” Room 29 is ample evidence of the novel space the album holds; not to say the record companies haven’t tried, with made-up categories such as “Classical Crossover.” After repeated listenings, Room 29 solidly remains in a category unto itself – a musical and lyrical adventure. Feist pointed out that Room 29 (the album) is actually the soundtrack to Room 29 (the performance), but while the majority of us miss out on the added visceral benefits of a live performance, Room 29 (the album) evokes powerful mental images of our own creation – a unique and personalized Room 29 performance for each listener. The review below is obviously based on our own experience (save a few choice quotes) and our familiarity with the unbelievably high water mark Gonzales sets for himself. Continue reading