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Chad Valley

Bongos, Beaches, and Tropicalism

Feb 13, 2011 Issue #35 - Winter 2011 - Death Cab for Cutie Bookmark and Share

Hugo Manuel wears two hats (that we’re aware of). He’s primarily known as one-third of Oxford, England’s well-respected math-rock band Jonquil, but lately he’s been doing something altogether different: Manuel is the man-behind-the-curtain of Chad Valley, his self-described “sun-drenched Balearic pop” solo project. Last year, Chad Valley graced the Internet with a handful of gorgeous, tropical-electro, bedroom-pop teasers and left underground-music junkies jonesing for an official release.

The non-downloadable, listen-only tracks “Anything” (most definitely 2010’s best summer slow-jam), “Up & Down,” and “Ensoniq Funk” were sent to notable Internet magazines for posting long before there was even talk of an EP. When asked to weigh in on how the Internet has changed the way music is distributed and how we consume it, Manuel says, “Everything moves so quickly. It’s most interesting to me to see how this is going to change the music itself…and that’s why it’s a really exciting time to be making music.”

Poolside, sun-kissed, palm-tree pop might seem at odds with the often dreary climate of the cloud-covered United Kingdom, but Manuel explains, “I’m really into the idea of holidays, on the beach, and all the things that come with that. I like music that takes you to a place rather than makes you say, ‘Hey, this sounds like so and so.’”

Chad Valley couldn’t be more different from what Manuel does with Jonquil. His affection for what he describes as “tropicalism” is more or less accidental, and it all started because of a love affair with both disco and—to his surprise—the bongos.

“I used to have a massive hatred of anything with bongos,” Manuel says. “I used to say that I liked all instruments except bongos. Then I started getting hard into disco music and I would be loving a track and then realize that there were bloody bongos on it! Damn. So with that diktat eradicated I started to use bongos all the time myself, I guess as a reaction against myself!”

On the heels of his self-titled debut EP, released last November on vinyl and digitally, Manuel’s already completed a second one, which he describes as “more melancholic than the previous stuff.” He elaborates: “I had been listening to a lot of Bollywood music at the time of writing that, but only the sad songs. I think that might have had quite an influence. Also, most of it was finished in the middle of winter, so that must have affected it too.”

Even if you’ve never actually listened to a Chad Valley song while laying poolside or sipping Pina Coladas on a beach in the Caribbean, the music makes you feel like you have. It’s as though you’re reminiscing about something that never actually happened. The transportive quality that Manuel instills in the music of Chad Valley is remarkably affecting, especially when you’re thousands of miles from the nearest palm tree. (


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