Release Date: Mar 24, 2015
Record label: Gentle Threat
Classical music is proving a source of inspiration in some unlikely corners. After Adamski’s reinvention of the German waltz for his first album in 15 years, and Ólafur Arnalds’ concept album around the music of Chopin with Alice Sara Ott, Chilly Gonzales returns with a reimagining of Romantic-era chamber music for today’s listeners. Gonzales has previous in this area, having written two collections of piano music in the vein of Philip Glass, and having performed his own Piano Concerto with the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
Chilly Gonzales is one of those musicians you know for his sheer tenacity rather than any breakthrough moment; he's perfected the art of sticking around. His discography is overshadowed by the names he has worked with—Jamie Lidell, Daft Punk, and many musicians from Canada's indie and electro circles, such as Peaches and Feist (he was a key contributor to the Grammy-nominated The Reminder). It's more likely that you own several albums with his name in the credits than one with his name on the cover.
Old rappers are like old heavyweight pugilists; inevitably having retired at their peak, they begin to miss the ring. Back they come for more blows to the head, their speech slowing and their hunger fading, with punchdrunk performances tarnishing a glorious career. To call Chilly Gonzales old at 42 is embroidering it a little, and he's certainly managed to circumnavigate the pitfalls, maintaining a full and varied existence since the days of electroclash when he emerged from Berlin, keeping both himself and us interested by tearing up the rulebook, Queensbury or otherwise.
Healthy doses of humour can make even the most challenging art form accessible. Piano wonder Chilly Gonzales brings that approach to Romantic-era chamber music - which, in his hands, isn't the most difficult thing to listen to in the first place, with his proclivity for warm intimacy and gently wafting melodies. An album for piano and string quartet, this follow-up to the superb Solo Piano II is another soothing listen, and fine orchestration by Hamburg's Kaiser Quartett adds greater harmonic complexity to Gonzales's songbook.
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.