We’ve met Jason Beck before. The animated pianist, rapper and shape changer has popped up on various One A Day outings in various disguises. Most recently, he was the ivory-slamming jazz cat on a re-work of Jamie Lidell’s most popular hit, ‘Multiply.’ He also turned up on most of his good Canadian friend Feist’s work, like The Reminder, in which he played a vital role. As Chilly Gonzales, or Gonzales as he’s more formally known, Beck has been a force to be reckoned with for over ten years. The man has holds the world record for longest piano solo. He plays classical, jazz, hip-hop, funk and everything else in between. The album which this song comes from is also a movie, which features Peaches and Tiga. He last appeared at an awards ceremony when he was playing keys for Drake. Of Rick Ross, he said: “The best rapper in the game today, bar none. Huge voice, huge ego and openly delusional.” I would very much like to be this man.
Many critics who have actively known Gonzales’ work for years have always lamented that his vibrant character was difficult to capture on record as compared to on stage. Having never seen the man live aside from in a group situation, I can’t comment, but certainly Chilly’s undergone a number of aural surgeries in his time. Unlike other artists, who make a concerted effort to change direction, it doesn’t really seem to like Gonzales has a real affiliation with any particular movement. Rather, as someone who is so clearly capable of almost anything, he wants to put that to good use. And so we get to Ivory Tower, a dig, no doubt, at his beloved piano, which was produced by Boys Noize, of all people. Surprisingly, it’s not all heavy house beats, even though there are certainly tunes that get there. Of course, lurking on this record is the infamous ‘Never Stop’, which brought him about the same amount of money as ’1234′ brought Feist and Sally Seltmann a few years ago when it became the official tune of the iPad commercial.
‘Knight Moves’, though, is different. It’s downtempo but neatly pulled off so that you can hear what’s gone into making it work without it being shoved into your face. Unlike ‘Never Stop’, which very cleverly turns three notes into an wall of sound, this album opener is all about the power where you can go from some really well thought out chords. The electronic influence doesn’t take long to kick in here (although it’s also undeniably Gonzales’ programming), rolling out perfect arpeggios beneath the main progression from the second bar. Quietly, additonal percussive sounds are phased in and before you know it, there’s a sensual eruption of bass and kick drum and you can imagine Ministry Of Sound’s Chill Out Sessions compilation manager has already called four times.
And that’s what’s so entertaining here, because Chilly could easily just chill on this motif for the next three minutes. Rally, he could, it’s seductive enough that most peeople will happily take the slight variation in chords vs. arpeggios and stick with the groove until it ends. But instead, the man wants a B section, which is what we get, and it’s almost better than the first. Glockenspiel-tinged female vocals bounce off the hi-hats, moving into full-on 1970s disco territory before cascading back into the original sound. This cycle continues with added layers every time, blossoming into an almost N*E*R*D*-like groove, replete with those amazingly tacky but wonderful pizzicato string samples over the legato notes below. It’s a nuance you’d expect from Gonzales, but certainly not his producer, who trades on serious shockwaves. The subtlety of it is astounding. And before you know it, you want to play it again. Steve Jobs obviously knew what he was looking for here.
Gonzales – ‘Knight Moves’