Big news today: Gonzales announces a new album called « CHAMBERS », set for release sometime in 2015!
If you are on Gonzales’ official email distribution list (and why wouldn’t you be?), you may have noticed a snippet of text that went along with the streaming cancellation notice:
« …we have a great surprise in store for you in January »
Then, on January 6th Gonzales responded to a comment on Twitter with the following:
@i_swear_more soon announcing something (hopefully) even better for this year
— chilly gonzales (@chillygonzales) January 6, 2015
Today, Gonzales tweeted a series of hints that would eventually reveal the name of his new album:
My next album : what do Marilyn the actress , Paul the bassist , Diane the bartender and wu tang all have in common ?
— chilly gonzales (@chillygonzales) January 14, 2015
A few humorous guesses later (hotel rooms, repeat customers, etc,) and the answer was guessed correctly and revealed to be:
The riddle was: what do Marilyn (actress) Paul (bassist) Diane (bartender) + Wu-Tang have in common? Answer: CHAMBERS aka my new album
— chilly gonzales (@chillygonzales) January 14, 2015
« Chambers »
So it’s confirmed – Gonzales has a new album on the way for 2015! He also mailed out and tweeted a link to a teaser video on YouTube:
Or Vimeo (for German fans):
There aren’t that many hints so far as to what the album will be like, but we’ll take our usual stab at it (we were pretty close with our Octave Minds prediction).
Text appears on a blue background: Somewhere in Europe…music is being composed for a special occasion., followed by a pan down and into the incredible Cologne Cathedral (and if you know the size of the cathedral, this is an incredibly difficult shot to pull off this well). As the camera fades into the glass over the main entrance, the scene morphs into the statues surrounding the main entrance, then pushes beyond the statues through three decorated curtains with arches (in the style of an ancient proscenium). The camera approaches a black stage curtain, and just when you think the curtain will reveal, the camera pans down to:
New Album 2015
The « Europe » reference, combined with the cathedral imagery and medieval stage arches speaks to a « timeless » quality of music, steeped in tradition. This generally implies « traditional » instruments (i.e. not synths as per Octave Minds), but more orchestral instruments. Travelling through the proscenium arches not only frames the stage, but also imparts the feeling of travelling back in time to when music was a special event held within a theatre. The arch was used to outline the action on stage and focus the attention of the audience on the performance. When performances were held in smaller venues (such as a large chamber), a portable proscenium was sometimes used to frame the performers and add significance to the performance. In Gonzales’ video and recent email (where the frame is used as a border around the video), the frame effect focuses our minds on what’s behind the stage curtain – certainly something special.
The « special occasion » reference is curious. « Occasional » songs were a cultural tradition in Europe for many years – songs which marked a special event, or even just to strengthen bonds between groups of people with common interests. A popular example can be found in the movie Amadeus, where Salieri writes a song to mark the occasion of the Emperor’s meeting with Mozart. The relative rarity of music would have meant that writing and performing a song for the occasion would mark it as ‘special’. There’s also a tradition that dates back to the Elizabethan times where the latest news is turned into a song – the modern version would be viral music videos based on current events. Sheet music during war times would gravitate towards revolutionary themes, and music in the 1980s has no shortage of East vs. West sentiments (Sting, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Ultravox, and so on). Music for special occasions was (and still is) a great way to galvanize people and rally behind a common cause. Gonzales has certainly worked to rally people behind the evolution of classical music, and the « special occasion » may be to mark Gonzales’ foray into a new kind of music.
The soundtrack starts off with what sounds like a violin alternating on two notes, accompanied by Gonzales’ blues-inspired piano playing. There is also a familiar pedal « thump » that is reminiscent of the pedal thump heard on Othello from Solo Piano II. A melancholy cello joins in, and the song continues to flow smoothly over us. As the tension rises slightly, a viola joins the cello, with the violin finally drawing a long note, while the pedal « thumps » continue and a low piano chord decays with lush harmonics. Right at the very end, the last pedal thump also sets the entire piano frame in resonance.
Overall, the song extract is very intriguing: we have Gonzales’ piano (yay!), plus the string accompaniment of at least a violin and cello (and likely a viola). The combination of bluesy piano and a modicum of strings works really well, and if the teaser is indicative of the entire album, it may represent an exciting new direction for Gonzales’ musical career. It’s difficult to nail down a description or come up with comparisons for the overall sound, which may be what Gonzales had in mind, but to us, it’s as if the supporting players in a Jazz trio have been replaced with Chamber instruments playing Jazz-based music (as opposed to traditional chamber music). We’ll certainly analyze more music as additional teasers are undoubtedly released.
Aside: The Shadow & Upcoming Tour
Gonzales has previously worked with Strings Deluxe, which morphed into the Kaiser Quartett, and has employed many chamber musicians on tour for scaled-down versions of songs from « The Unspeakable… » and creative versions of other songs. He also used the skills of the Kaiser Quartett for his run of « The Shadow » performances in Germany. Given this, it wasn’t a surprise when he announced that the Kaiser Quartett would be joining him on 2015 dates, but given the nature of the teaser song, the Kaiser Quartett may play a larger role in the performances of songs from the upcoming album. Fans attending one of Gonzales’ 2015 concerts will undoubtedly hear some songs from Chambers.
Chambers is an interesting title for the album. An initial reaction would be to assume that the new album will feature a chamber ensemble in the same way that « The Unspeakable… » used a full orchestra. Chambers could also refer to a private, intimate room – the sort of room where Gonzales invites us to listen to and become lost in his emotional music. There are also chambers in our hearts, within instruments, houses of the legislature, and legal offices – all of which could somehow describe or contribute to the meaning of Gonzales’ album. Overall, it would appear to be an excellent, multi-dimensional title.
As per our review of Re-Introduction Etudes, the font and graphic design follows the classic and timeless style of the hugely successful songbook. The timeless quality of the lettering also adds to the idea that the music shouldn’t be limited to a particular era. Like Gonzales’ Solo Piano albums, new fans will be able to discover this music and still find it ‘fresh’. As discussed above, it appears that a colourful stage arch will frame the video and album and serve as a beautiful theme.
As one YouTube commenter wrote: « J’attend ça avec impatience« , which likely sums up the sentiment for many Gonzales fans. Composers through the ages had to patiently wait for news of their compositions to be disseminated, and even longer for the compositions to be heard and enjoyed. Fans of composers had to wait months, and even years to hear new works, but the wait must have made the music very special. We’re looking forward to additional details (and hopefully more teaser songs) being released in the coming weeks, but just having a new Gonzales album on the horizon makes winter more bearable. We’re lucky to live in an age of instant gratification, but it’s also fun and exciting to anticipate and wait for things we truly enjoy – especially Gonzales’ musical warmth at the end of a cold winter.