Released by Arts & Crafts
Call him maniacal or too much but you can’t deny Chilly Gonzales isn’t musical. The Canadian pianist/rapper, now an ex-pat who resides in Paris, makes sure you’re aware of this on every project he puts out and Ivory Tower is no exception. His sixth record fuses together the best of his ability, the remarkable piano compositions and absurd lyricism, with production outsourced to Berlin electronic producer Boys Noize.
Freeing himself from the meticulousness of production duties means that there’s a lot more personality on this record. While that’s not necessarily reference to his rapping (specifically on “The Grudge”), which can sometimes come across as more shticky than anything else, Gonzales’ youth-honed piano skills are fabulously showcased. Focusing on more simplistic, jingle-type melodies as opposed to intricate liturgies, Ivory Tower works as an album on its own but serves a second purpose as well: to function as a soundtrack for a film starring Gonzales, of the same name.
The Ivory Tower film, Gonzales first foray into acting, revolves around the world of chess and the fluttery melodies created by him and Boys Noize fit quite well. It’s quirks like the ascending and descending patterns in hand-clap punctuated “Never Stop” (sampled in an iPad commercial, and probably psyching out iTunes purchasers hearing the actual track is hijacked by Gonzales’ raps) and the breathy fervent chorus of “I Am Europe.”
What this all means, however, is that the theatrical and immediateness of Ivory Tower might not translate to repeated listens, apart from a few songs (minimal throwback opener “Knight Moves” would make fantastic driving music). Still, you have to respect Gonzales’ innate ear for infusing the very traditional piano with pop music sensibility.