Gentle Thread Ltd.
Solo Piano III
As one of the few piano players to really stand out in the world of indie, Chilly Gonzales always makes music for himself. On his latest record, Gonzales not only crafts a work with a stunning emotional depth, but taps into something equally accessible to classical and pop fans alike. Though it will definitely feel a little sparse to some, if you can appreciate the minimalism Gonzales works with that really makes this album pop.
Creeping melodies start the record on “Treppen,” creating a sense of unease with how easily Gonzales is able to flex his writing between light and dark in seconds. “Pretenderness” however offers a sort of glossy beauty to its subtle chord work, and really fills out the open-nature of the sound at play on this record. Using this space, there’s a slower burn to see the story develop in the keyboard playing here. However Gonzales actually starts even stronger on “Prelude In C Sharp Major” where his sense of both shifting tones and multiple voices on the piano give a sense of depth to the track.
“Famous Hungarians” plays out mysteriously, bringing a brooding darkness while playing to the grandeur he seems to want to skewer as well. It’s this sense of duality that creates a lot of the album’s great tension, and keeps songs from feeling truly empty without anything else to play support. This plays an equal hand in a song like “Chico” where a slinking run of keys is contrasted with a bouncy left hand that tries to keep things under control. Even “Nimbus” dashes this left hand in and out to show a sense of time in the song, and slowly change the way its own central hook grows from conflicted to free.
In its slow-pacing, “Be Natural” is finally patient enough to find Gonzales crafting distinct moments in his sparse arrangements. However, by stretching his writing more and taking his time, he also ends up demanding a more than some listeners will be ready to sit through. There’s a palpable story behind the heartbreaking hooks of “Ellis Eye” that give it a score-like quality and makes you imagine just what happened to elicit such sad runs of piano. Gonzales shifts this cinematic direction to something more epic and aggressive on “Present Tense” as his hands create something more harmonic and fascinating than simple severed interactions can muster.
As its name suggests, there’s a kind of elegance and quirk to “Cactus Impromptu” that plays in and out of time so freely that many might find it a little hard to hold onto. Similarly, “Lost Ostinato” tends to stick out most for its few sharp moments than as a whole piece. Gonzales really crafts a sense of space and emotion however with “Blizzard In B Flat Minor” with a density and viciousness that feels like a classical composer reinventing video game boss music with powerful results.
Though he seems to return to a more vintage sense of romantic pop writing on “October 3rd,” Gonzales carries the piece with his brilliant writing that really balances his sense of moments with continuous wonder. “Kopfkino” floats with this sense of foreign wonder as each little gliss of piano tumbles into the next before opening into a whole new feeling. Despite its continuous sense of subtle beauty, “Whist” seems to suggest such a bleak future that it ends the album on a pretty dour note.
Words by Owen Maxwell