Boys Noize? Chilly Gonzales? Together? An unlikely pairing on paper that reaps rewards in the recording studio
Will you look at the length of that. It’s long enough to poke your eye out.
The list of respective projects, production credits and collaborations undertaken by Alex Ridha and Chilly Gonzales is pretty lengthy (yes, yes, congratulations, you’ve got a filthy mind too). So what happens when two prolific artists – Ridha, the heavyweight Berlin DJ/producer known as Boys Noize, and Gonzales, that Canadian chap of seemingly infinite talents with a nifty line in piano compositions – come together to create an album? It might sound like the most niche sitcom ever, but the result is ‘Octave Minds’ on Boysnoize Records (yup, Ridha is also a label boss).
It’s easy to imagine a world where the recording sessions started and ended with Gonzales on one side of the studio with a shiny grand piano and Ridha on the other with mountains of synths, drum machines and other assorted noisy things. A divide, if you will. Luckily, this album feels like nothing of the sort, which is perhaps unsurprising as the pair have worked with each other before.
Ridha and Gonzales merge their sounds together effortlessly, while still capturing their individual personalities. From the tiny piano melodies blending with the Tim Hecker-style electronic swells of ‘Symmetry Slice’, which opens the album, through the glistening Italo disco/French house riot that is ‘Together’, to the reflective ‘In Silence’, where the piano takes the lead but the electronics set the mood, these two clearly had a blast recording these tracks. Which isn’t just to say they probably enjoyed it, but that it’s easy to hear how well they work as a team. They’ve been able to translate much of the fun they had into the music while still turning in a pretty spotless album.
At some points, ‘Octave Minds’ even slips into prog mode, as quite a number of electronic artists from the mainland have seemingly started to do. ‘Initials KK’ is breathy and dramatic, while ‘Done Deal’ is an expansive, thudding, driving romp, complete with a guitar solo that’s so dangerously close to being wanky, you can almost see the long hair and suggestively unbuttoned white shirt flailing in the wind. These are nice little surprises, though, surprises you wouldn’t even begin to think were possible upon hearing the words “Boys Noize and Chilly Gonzales collaborative album”.
When looking at the artists that both Ridha and Gonzales have been working with recently, something that isn’t unexpected is a guest appearance by a popular rapper. Sadly, ‘Tap Dance’, featuring Chance The Rapper, ends up being the weakest song here. Chance’s goofball style comes off kind of grating, and on an album as atmospheric as this, it sticks out like a sore thumb.
Other than that slight misstep, ‘Octave Minds’ is a roaring success and I really hope the project continues beyond this record. It’s not just a sum of its parts – it’s all the parts working excellently with each other.