Plastikman & Chilly Gonzales ‘Consumed In Key’ (Turbo Recordings)

A meeting of minds between two Canadian musical shapeshifters from opposite ends of the stylistic spectrum, ‘Consumed In Key’ is the collaborative record that no one saw coming. As Plastikman, techno artist Richie Hawtin became renowned in the 1990s for his roiling acid tracks and dank nocturnal beats, a sound he perfected on classic albums such as ‘Sheet One’ and ‘Musik’, before becoming arguably one of the most famous DJs in the world. In the other corner, Chilly Gonzales (real name Jason Beck) has a wildly varied discography that ranges from goofy and humorous hip hop (as on 2000’s ‘The Entertainist’) to electro and house (2010’s ‘Ivory Tower’). His ‘Solo Piano’ records are beautiful instrumental works indebted to classical and jazz, and he also earned a Guinness World Record for Longest Solo Concert, playing for 27 hours straight.

This hybrid project first coalesced after Gonzales heard Plastikman’s 1998 album for NovaMute, ‘Consumed’, a few years ago, and was intrigued by its eerie sonic structures. He began to create his own versions of the tracks on the piano, subtly embellishing the electronics with melodic gestures. Turbo Recordings boss Tiga (fellow Canadian, executive producer of this record and obviously a major electronic artist in his own right) heard these, and suggested that Gonzales send the pieces to Hawtin. The latter loved them, and fused the two elements together, resulting in ‘Consumed In Key’. 

Across the record, it’s surprising just how well these seemingly disparate worlds go together. While Hawtin’s original album is a murky and all-enveloping affair, its ‘In Key’ counterpart feels lighter and more sprightly, thanks to Gonzales’ additions. ‘Ekko’ opens with a pulsing bass, but it’s quickly joined by the plangent playing of Gonzales’ piano, as he skips deftly across the notes, adding a bittersweet beauty to the echoing infinity of dub drone. ‘Cor Ten’ comes doused in seas of reverb, a deep acidic loop throbbing in what feels like a giant underground cistern. Over a slow kick drum beat, Gonzales adds espionage intrigue, his piano trills gradually becoming louder and fusing with what sounds like a zither.

‘Locomotion’, meanwhile, is suitably propulsive, building up a head of steam with its chugging groove and a continuous looping piano, before Gonzales decorates the track with jazzy chord flourishes. ‘In Side’ feels closer to outright techno, with its heavy beat, bass thump and spiralling acid bleeps that build in intensity. 

What Gonzales does so well here, and throughout the record, is to make his contributions fit perfectly, leaving just the right amount of space, and knowing when to let the electronics breathe. You can picture him onstage playing along and ad-libbing over the unfurling arrangements. When the shivery strings join the picture, they serve to change the whole mood, creating a sense of filmic suspense.

‘Contain’ is full of dust motes and crackly susurrations, its sparse piano flourishes drifting across the dubscape, and ‘Consume’ has a delayed rhythm track and a simple bass riff reminiscent of Depeche Mode’s ‘Personal Jesus’, which the pianist adds only the scantest of elements to. ’Consumed’ is probably the closest we get to a dancefloor, with its urgent melodic loop, kicks and hi-hats, around which the piano curls with precision and care. 

And the closing ‘Passage Out’ is a dark ambient piece that leaves a sense of the unresolved in its sweeps of synth tone and string melodies. 

Across the 10 tracks of ‘Consumed In Key’, it’s evident that, in terms of musicality, Plastikman and Gonzales complement each other astonishingly well. While the original intent of Hawtin’s record may have been quite different – a hypnotic emission from deepest techno space – here, those same dark atmospheres become more inviting and meditative rather than threatening. It helps that Gonzales has made more than his fair share of electronic beats too, so has a deep understanding of this world, and it’s also to his immense credit that he heard something different in the rhythmic depths of ‘Consumed’. 

The album opens up the intriguing possibility of similar collaborations, and especially live performances from this duo – perhaps new compositions too. It proves that a remix can be so much more than simply a rhythmic reconstruction, putting this record among other rare gems of its ilk like Massive Attack/Mad Professor’s dubby ‘No Protection’, or Danger Mouse’s Jay-Z/Beatles mash-up, ‘The Grey Album’. ‘Consumed In Key’ feels like a genuine and gratifying combination of Plastikman and Chilly Gonzales’ highly individual talents. 

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