Release Date: Oct 30, 2012
Record label: Cascine
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Club/Dance
Chad Valley (aka Hugo Manuel) can’t wrap his head around modern music. We’re not complaining. His debut full-length is layered with the kind of unselfconscious joy that most of us can only achieve after consuming a case of Zima. Having taken us out for a day of sun with Balearic pop EP Equatorial Ultravox, this time Valley is bent on coaxing the listener off the beaches and into the time machine for a night on the town set some 30 years ago.
After his earlier well-received EPs, Chad Valley's full-length debut in 2012 came hot on the heels of a swirl of attention -- both positive and negative -- for the putative style he and others have worked in. Whether by an accident of timing or something in the water in general, the British singer and many of the collaborators who appear on Young Hunger have been tagged as some form of indie R&B -- compared, and not always favorably, with any number of African-American performers, whether Ne-Yo, The-Dream, Miguel or perhaps most tellingly, Kanye West in his 808s and Heartbreak mode. If anything, though, this distinction is something that ends up boxing all the performers in -- better a world where many different musicians have no fear of using electronic arrangements to their own ends rather than yet another tedious version of realness.
Chad Valley’s two tropical, luminous EPs surfaced in 2010 and 2011, just when the American appreciation of a false craze, chillwave, was transmogrifying into a wholly earnest recapitulation of breathy, plaintive, synth-clouded pop music. The EPs featured a heavy rotation of woozily processed keyboard chords and strung-out beats. Hugo Manuel, the Oxonian behind the Chad Valley pseudonym, sang largely in a filtered, nasally croon—his smoothed-out, barely lyrical, synthetically harmonied vocals enlisted themselves more as a mere part of the whole neon-rainbow of his compositions than an explicit narration.
On his long-awaited debut album as Chad Valley, Oxford, England based Hugo Manuel makes little attempt to veil his affection for the zillion-dollar, slickly produced, mammoth-sized pop albums of the 1980s; the results are as charming and imaginative as one may have come to expect from one of the blogosphere’s most buzzed-about artists. It’s obvious that Manuel cares passionately and thinks deeply about pop music and its potential as valid creative expression. You get the sense that when he thumbs through his record collection and stops on, say, Janet Jackson’s Control, he listens to it differently than most; he regards pop music as a legitimate and powerful art.
In 2008, Guardian music critic John Burgess wrote optimistically about the comeback of Balearic pop, citing producers like Lindstrøm and Prins Thomas as proponents of its revival. Last year, in the same publication, Simon Reynolds blamed the genre's transformation into an "overall banging boshing feel" for the decline of Top 40 pop, with "Dynamite" by Taio Cruz acting as the main offender. Listening to Chad Valley's debut LP, there's evidence for both Burgess and Reynolds' respective arguments: "My Girl" lifts a lyric from the Spice Girls' "Wannabe" almost verbatim, but "Fall 4 U" exemplifies Burgess' platonic ideal of Balearic, with Valley's voice curling like a saxophone against a pillowy, gently propulsive backbeat.
In June of last year I concluded that Chad Valley’s Equatorial Ultravox was “a consistently blissful and thrilling EP that bodes well for any forthcoming album. ” So, now that album arrives is that promise fulfilled? Well, not quite. Back in 2011, Chad Valley mainman Hugo Manuel was doing just about enough to distinguish himself in a chillwave/Balearica pop scene that had already passed both its zenith and its saturation point, with the likes of Memory Tapes, Neon Indian and Toro Y Moi the higher denizens of this dreamy hinterland and Washed Out’s Ernest Greene its enigmatic king.
“I like to think that the scenery had something to do with the way this sounds” Hugo Manual, a.k.a. Chad Valley explained to Rolling Stone in a recent interview. Much of his debut LP, Young Hunger, was recorded in the beautiful Norwegian countryside, and it’s easy to hear that crystalline imagery permeate the album’s 11 tracks. Additionally, Manuel touts an impressive list of collaborators to help him with his 80’s-indebted dance pop, including Twin Shadow, Active Child, El Perro Del Mar, and Glasser.
Ditching the lo-fi elements of his early EPs, Chad Valley’s full-length debut turns its head instead to the slicker jams of late ’80s and early ’90s disco-pop. But enlisting a cast of contemporary electro whizz-kids (Twin Shadow, TEED, Glasser) does little to save this record. Disappointingly, given his previous sterling output, this is a pretty boneless pastiche of the genre.
If there’s one thing you need to know about Hugo Manuel, it’s that he works hard—really hard. He’s one of the movers and shakers behind Blessing Force, an Oxford, UK-based collective of artists. He’s the frontman of sunny indie-rock band Jonquil, and now he’s releasing an LP as his electro-pop identity, Chad Valley. Young Hunger is a collection of songs that captures longing, loaded with smooth synths and a strong sense of direction.The collaborative spirit from Manuel’s work with Jonquil and Blessing Force carries over to his solo project—he’s brought plenty of friends on board to join him.
You may not be aware, but 26-year-old Oxford-based producer Hugo Manuel is one of the hardest working men in pop. As well as recording and performing with his band Jonquil, Manuel is an integral part of Oxford art collective Blessing Force and has spent the majority of the last year touring the world with the likes of SBTRKT, Friendly Fires and Twin Shadow. In amongst all of that Manuel has been working on his solo project as Chad Valley for the past two years and has managed to find the time to complete his first album, the appropriately titled ‘Young Hunger’.Hugo Manuel is part of the vanguard of exciting new British producers that have sprung up in the last few years.
Too much like warm candyfloss: comprising only sugar, air and synthetic colour. Kris Griffiths 2012 Hugo Manuel dislikes the chillwave tag pinned to Chad Valley, his solo project away from fronting Oxford indie group Jonquil. There’s no mention of the subgenre on the press release for Young Hunger, his debut long-player following two EPs; though there is talk of the “fire and strength” and “super big” production behind the album.
There is a song on Chad Valley's anaemic debut album entitled 'My Girl'. The opening lines are thus – "If you wanna be my girl / You gotta tell me the truth." At this point, four songs in and with these words fading into insignificance, three thoughts occur almost simultaneously. Firstly, what to do with the mouthful of sick provided by involuntary oesophageal reflex, such is the cloying schmaltz of the track.