The Reign on Notre-Dame

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.

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Consumed In Key: devouring the void

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.

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Orinoco Runs Deep

“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

Solo Piano III: Un, Deux, Trois (Battre Sync)

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

Solo Piano III – Pure Pianodom

Being futuristic these days means being futuristic on your own terms

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

Room 29: Modern Masterpiece

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

Room 29

Honing and refining his skill, moving from Solo Piano to chamber music and now to voice and piano (and chamber music), Gonzales’ trajectory appears to focus on re-introducing classic techniques to new audiences. And one senses that listeners are ready for something with deeper and lasting meaning; not since the heyday of disco have audiences been subjected to deep and relentless domination of dance-oriented 4/4 pop – people are looking for a different relationship with music. Room 29 is a collaborative effort, bringing together the witty and insightful lyrics of Jarvis Cocker and the deep and emotional Gonzales piano that we know and love. From the pre-release tracks, it’s easy to hear how well this pairing works, but (as with any Gonzales release), there’s a lot of background to discover and layers to peel back – let’s have a closer look. Continue reading

Freud Analyzes Chambers

It’s curious how a concert can be construed as a therapy session en-masse with characters on both sides of the stage divide standing to benefit. The “psychologist” wears comfortable slippers and sits on a padded leather chair. He or she has a bevy of tools at hand for eliciting responses from audiences, including musical instruments, voice, other musicians, and willing (and not-so-willing) audience members. In North America, traveling illusionists such as “The Amazing Kreskin” or the late “Reveen”, blur the lines between entertainer, therapist, and illusionist, often employing therapy or other devices to not only entertain, but also to make grand statements on the nature of consciousness and one’s ability to believe. Continue reading

Octave Minds Debut: Inspiring and Evocative

Many of Gonzales’ albums have a central theme, much in the same way that many of his songs were driven from a central theme or challenge (e.g. compose an emotional song only on the white keys). In the case of Solo Piano, it’s the (apparent) intimacy and solitude of an upright piano, and in “The Unspeakable Chilly Gonzales”, it’s the insightful and bombastic rapper (with no beats), and so on. The original Boys Noize collaboration, Ivory Tower was also a concept album of sorts – a ‘pure’ artist struggling with the pressures of becoming an ‘Entertainer’. For Ivory Tower, the duo were soundtracking to an actual movie, but in the case of Octave Minds, the music is written to a movie that only exists in our minds. This is much more powerful and effective, as the evocative imagery that comes from within us is shaped from our personal environment and experiences. Without a singer (for the most part), the music is universal as we don’t have to strain to interpret words. Continue reading

Octave Minds Think Alike

When we first heard that Chilly Gonzales and Boys Noize were “Working Together” again, we speculated on what the result would be: Touching electronic-infused piano melodies and harmonies. On July 18th. Chilly Gonzales and Boys Noise announced the first freely downloadable single (“In Silence”) from their forthcoming album “Octave Minds”, which will be released in Sept, 2014. “In Silence” sets the bar very high for the rest of the album, which is sure to be beyond what anyone was expecting. Continue reading