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Chilly Gonzales – French Kiss Review

Prolific but never settling into his own groove, Chilly Gonzales and their reliance on collaboration has steered an interesting career. French Kiss will be no surprise to frequent listeners of the Canadian producer, though there is much to love about his latest record. Eleven lush little numbers from the heart of French delight. From AI-generated terrors on lead single French Kiss to the casual bounce which sounds throughout it, this new record feels eerie and a little intimidated by its own shadow. What comes before it is far stronger, although these flickers of hopeful instrumentals are short enough to hold attention. An album which kisses the other side of half an hour will do just nicely. 

There is a time and place for these sorts of casual albums. Background noise of the finest order and though they do not get a look in beyond that, enjoying the softer tones and flourishes of vaguely haunting Il Pleut Sur Notre-Dame is a real treat. The chimes toward the end of the track are cold and brutal, hitting out at the pillow talk found preceding it. Bonnie Banane brings the stylish vocals to that one, and Christine Ott is on hand for the following Lac Du Cerf, a whistling, warbling piece which can do nothing but rise and rise. Even then those highs are battered by the vagueness and spluttered style of Wonderfoule, a track which tries to edge out the casual appeal of what is a slower, chamber pop piece. Gonzales is keen to turn it on its head, but French Kiss is rooted.  

Unfortunately, Gonzales begins to fight against himself. A losing battle on both sides as he struggles to fuse his new jazz nature with the old-school lounge work he shot to attention for. Cut Dick and Romance Sans Paroles No 3 are the two sides of this coin, working against one another yet sounding finely in step. It may take the wind out of his sails to have such contrast, but there is a tenderness evident in both pieces, they just do not work in sync with one another. Those tender charms sound so much better isolated from the rest of the patchy, in-your-face attitude Gonzales has half-heartedly adopted for the singles. He wants the attitude, the intensity, and then falls back into the Room 29 era of his works. All he misses here is a Jarvis Cocker collaboration.  

He still has the right intention for collaboration. Gonzales, utilising pianist Richard Clayderman, creates one of his soundest and most alluring pieces so far. Richard Et Moi, as plainly titled as it may be, is a real highlight for an album which could offer so much more. It does not, and listeners are all the worse for it. A hodgepodge of a record, a scattershot of innovation, intricacies and a lack of faith in the self. Twinkling little delights are worth sticking around for and that is much the same as Gonzales always offers, yet in his attempts at inspiring something new, he falls flat on his face. A French kiss indeed, but with a lingering stench of foul and embarrassment following through. Still, worth a listen if you can stomach the changes in pace, as brutal as they may be.  

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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