sat 03/12/2022

Album: Plastikman & Chilly Gonzales - Consumed in Key | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Plastikman & Chilly Gonzales - Consumed in Key

Album: Plastikman & Chilly Gonzales - Consumed in Key

Sometimes grandiose Canadians go back to minimalist basics

Plastikman & Chilly Gonzales - Consumed in Key

The three Canadians Richie Hawtin (Plastikman), Jason Beck (Chilly Gonzales) and Tiga Sontag (aka just Tiga, who exec produced this album) are each so laden with image and persona it is easy to forget they are musicians sometimes. Hawtin has since the early Nineties not only brought techno to mass audiences, but adorned it with all kinds of conceptual and design spectacle in arenas and galleries as much as in nighclubs. 

Sontag too, has turned dance music into theatre to huge success, albeit in a much more knowing, camp sense ever since the turn of the millennium electroclash era. And the arch, imposing songwriter, pianist and raconteur Beck – musical collaborator with the likes of Feist, Jamie Lidell, Daft Punk and many more – very often seems like he considers himself his own greatest work of art. 

But they are all musicans, and extremely adept ones at that. The original album Consumed was one of Hawtin’s finest works: a late-Nineties dive into the void after his rocket ride through the great international techno explosion of the middle of the decade, it was all texture and dissociation, like an experience of falling into the heart of Rothko’s darkest canvases rendered in atomic detail. 

Now, 24 years later, Beck has added some piano to it. Really: that’s pretty much it! But while techno / classical crossovers can be deeply dispiriting, and while Beck’s solo piano playing can often be a showboating affair, he has for almost the entire album pared his playing down to match the sombre tone of the original. Indeed, maybe thanks to Hawtin's steady hand on the mixer, he weaves into the mist and rumble of the electronics so perfectly, it’s hard to imagine it wasn’t always like this. 

The closest parallels are Ryuichi Sakamoto’s work with electronic artists like Fennesz and Alva Noto, but this has personality all of its own... yet not too much personality either. The whole appeal of Consumed was built around a bleakly sublime dissipation of the self and that still holds here. At least until the penultimate, title, track where Beck can’t stop his flamboyant, romantic tendencies and gives the album a moment of release it maybe didn’t need. But even that makes for a pretty decent track in its own right, just not one on a par with the abyssal majesty of the rest of the record. Overall, though: a triumph of substance over style. 

@joemuggs

Hear "Contain (in Key)":

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