Review : Chilly Gonzales - Ivory Tower
PopmattersIvory Tower is producer-cum-rapper-cum-record-breaking-pianist Jason Charles Beck’s sixth solo release and perhaps his most varied yet. While past offerings from Beck, better known as Chilly Gonzales, have been known to switch gears from the first track to the last, Ivory Tower covers more ground than expected from such a schizophrenic stylist. Emotive piano instrumentals, harpsichord and flute cameos, shoddy rap disses, and the sort of disco stompers that DJs bring out at the peak of a really good dance party all get to shine here.
Although the genre diversions should keep the listener of Ivory Tower guessing as to what will greet their ears next, it should not be surprising that there is a proliferation of instrumentals here. The album is, after all, a soundtrack to a film of the same name, starring Gonzales and DJ/producer Tiga as chess players. However, given that Gonzales was prone to dropping the instrumentals between his raps and other excursions on previous releases means that Ivory Tower comes off less like a soundtrack and more like a proper Gonzales release.
“Knight Moves”, whose title can be forgiven once the premise of the film is taken into account, opens Ivory Tower beautifully. Not surprisingly, the song is piano based, but Gonzales switches things up with the addition of a jazzy beat and cooey female backing vocals. Follow-up “I Am Europe” tricks the listener into thinking it will follow suit before getting truly weird. Its opening minute is dancey and upbeat if a bit Euro trashy, a trait which is explained when Gonzales finally pops in and drops surrealistic lines like, “I’m an imperial armpit sweating Chianti / I’m socialist lingerie, I’m diplomatic techno / I’m gay pastry and racist cappuccino”. Standing alongside “Europe” from the Indelicates’ great Songs for Swinging Lovers, this is one of the finest Europe-skewering tracks of the year....full text
NmeThroughout time the ancient and noble art of chess has awakened intellects, confounded Chinese emperors and inspired great art (as well as the odd dodgy song by Chris de Burgh). This is the soundtrack to a brilliant forthcoming movie starring the man himself, apparently written “in the back of a piss-powered taxi”. Chilly once again proves he is no pass master on ‘Ivory Tower’. Produced by Boyz Noize, this is the sound of a rook shuffling with a maverick king, full of harpsichords and pianos and sexy European beats; it will arouse the mind and stimulate interesting positions. Check, mate....full text
MusicomhChilly Gonzales, as we should now call him, is not a man who does musical dullness - and with this release of Ivory Tower he's pushed out the boat to include an accompanying feature film, which stars Tiga and Peaches. Having listened to the album, mind, it becomes clear that the film carries the creative weight here.
It explains some of the Michael Nyman-esque piano lines that busy themselves running round in circles, until the producer adds some beefy beats underneath. The beats themselves are Ed Banger-style funk, caked in dirt and dropping through the floor with impressive weight - a bit like Justice and Philip Glass holding court in the same room.
And yet, despite the obvious potential for entertainment, something on the record just doesn't click. The nonsense lyrics are entertaining in a way, but they can also be baffling. "Racist cappuccino", anyone? "Imperial armpits that sweat Chianti?" Or is the recipe for success simply being "a yellow tooth, waltzing with wraparound shades on"? Whichever takes your fancy, they are all characters on I Am Europe, the funky as hell number that will either have you wetting yourself laughing or screwing your face up in puzzlement....full text
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