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Chilly Gonzales - Chambers


Release date: 23 March 2015
Chilly Gonzales Chambers
18 March 2015, 11:30 Written by Kate Travers
Some artists like to signal their pretension in a subtle way - James Murphy with his “Hello Steve Reich” remix of David Bowie’s “Love Is Lost”, for example. Others, however, just can’t help themselves. Chilly Gonzales (A.K.A Jason Beck) might be fall into the latter camp. His latest album, Chambers, has been in gestation since Solo Piano II, the sequel to the acclaimed – and innovatively named – Solo Piano I. This latest LP is similarly literally titled, as it is, in essence, a 12-track suite for a chamber ensemble - string quartet and piano, to be precise.

If you know anything about our man Gonzales, though, you'll know that things are never quite what they appear when he's around. All genres are permeable for this man: from the '90s indie-rock stylings of his first project Son to the Manic, and surreal rap of The Entertainist, he's pretty much tried it all. As a collaborator, he's equally versatile, having lent a hand to Feist, Peaches and Daft Punk, on occasion. Even Drake is a fan – he pulled him in to work on “From Time” (you know, the one about Courtney from Hooters on Peachtree? That's Chilly on keys in the background, and on writing and production).

Chambers wouldn't be what it is without Chilly's unique status as musical chameleon. It's an idiosyncratic mix of cultural erudition: nods to classical greats and references to Freud, nestle against tracks dedicated to Rick Ross and John McEnroe – presumably, because both of them would “serve your ass”, given half a chance. “Advantage Points”, supposedly inspired by Wimbledon 1980, blends staccato strings, that have the urgency of Stravinsky, with the heady harmonies and melodrama of a Hall & Oates track. “Freudian Slippers” is defined as an ode to the unconscious, but it may as well be a ballade to Chilly Gonzales' own multiple musical personalities: the first half of this piece has a lilting elegance that could easily belong to Poulenc – but then the second half of the track grabs a kick drum and things get all PBR&B real quick. No one could have expected that.

The final track, “Myth Me”, is the only one to feature vocals on the LP. This track is dedicated to himself. Narcissistic? Probably, yes. Is it crude, even offensive, to make a sonic pun on lisping “miss me”? Going to have to say 'yeah', again. But this type of humour runs through (Chilly) Gonzales' records, and even when he is not explicitly crafting puns, Chilly is always playing. He is playing when he blurs the line between a chamber ensemble and an arpeggiator; he is playing when he reminds us that symphonies share the same chord sequences as pop songs; he is playing when he wittily takes the criteria by which we define and judge music and dissolves them in front of our eyes.

So, he may be pretentious, narcissistic and borderline offensive, but you have to hand it to Chilly – what he is doing here is pretty damned clever.

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