Much has been made of Hugo Manuel’s side project Chad Valley, the name which he pilfered from his friend (now manager) that holds little meaning other than it sounding “quite good”. His music should be given this same approach, ask as many “why’s” about it as you like but the inevitable answer will be “it just sounds good”… and why not?
The Oxford based Manuel started taking his side project more seriously in 2009, releasing a couple of tracks tentatively on his soundcloud earlier this year; causing what can only be described as a blogging storm. Since then we have heard comparisons to Toro Y Moi, Memory Tapes, Washed Out, How To Dress Well and oOoOO collectively pushed under the flimsy umbrella that is “chillwave”. But here we have a collection of tracks from his self-titled Chad Valley EP that cut out the comparisons and allow you to hear for yourself what just “sounds good”.
‘Ensoniq Funk’ presents itself as soft-focused Balearic pop, self-indulgent and luxuriant capturing the lazy summers gone that some of us are still trying to cling on to. With taciturn vocals layered over a propagating haze of synths and samples it fazes in and out over glumly shifting basslines. The ambient undercurrent of ‘Up and Down’ rumbles with fuzzy samples and 80’s funk bass, shining with melodic vocals and atmospheric washed out keyboards and illuminated by steel drums. There are elements of 80′s UK pop and even futuristic R&B, especially in ‘Anything’, unsurprising then that Chad Valley is a huge Mariah Carey and R-Kelly fan. Lyrically, Manuel said himself that “it doesn’t matter” too much what he is singing about but it is “all about girls really”: girls you love, girls you hate and girls you can’t have. This idea of an untouchable perfection and an unreachable idyll sets the tone of the EP; a melancholic heart beats throughout each of the songs – a vague oblivion of unsettling energy.
The fact that a handful of Manuel’s obvious influences are signed to the legendary pop label Service, it comes as no surprise that Cascine (its new offshoot) has scooped up Chad Valley to produce this EP. Excellent, ethereal and a joy to listen to, it is a distant memory of summers gone by.