What stroke me first while listening to Gabriel Garzón-Montano highly expected debut album “Jardin” was how much space the production gave to his compositions – and God is this rare these days. Not that I don’t like the prolific resourcefulness of today’s music – a musical era that could be qualified as baroque -, but my ears, as well as my mind, do need to be able to concentrate on single pieces of information from time to time, especially when those snippets are of such quality as the ones you can savor in “Jardin”.
Gabriel Garzón-Montano himself described his album as a catalyst for awareness, pleasure, in a word for the kind of deep feeling of delight that only nature – and therefore music – can provide. Hence the first single of the album, “Sour Mango”, an airy ballad not unlike D’Angelo closing track for his most recent album “Black Messiah”, “Another Life”, was firstly recorded with a whole lot of electronic, computer-made beats to be later re-recorded with more « natural » percussions. And while I am not a die-hard adversary of computer-based music, I must admit that, combined with a James Blake-ish synthetic bass sound, the natural hand clapping, snare and (yes) rainstick, endow the music with an otherworldly essence – which can paradoxically be found in nature only.[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/291117563″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”50″ height=”80″ iframe=”true” /]
>However, the stripped down production only work thanks to two factors: the craftsmanship of Gabriel Garzón-Montano as a musician, and his authenticity as an artist. It is not hard to prove the former right; just listen to the highly intricate, and yet deadly effective vocal back-ups of “The Game” and it won’t take long before your body begin to sway to the rhythm of its funky savvy. But what may not be as self-evident is the melancholic aftertaste of his classical sensibility. The timid hesitancy of his humble vocal prowesses caters his music with a fragile naiveté that is but too seldom in R&B. Despite the Hispanic inspiration of the madrigal “Cantiga”, one can hear echoes of a haunted Brian Wilson singing “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)”, when the finishing song of the album, “Lullaby”, has some Chet Baker influences in it.
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Gabriel Garzón-Montano‘s “Jardin”, or when there is room for the music to grow
It might be far-fetched of an interpretation (but else, why even write reviews?), but I can’t stop myself from thinking that “Jardin” might be a melodic adaptation of a modern form of Epicureanism, in at least one way. While the record presents itself to us as an alleluia to beauty and joy, it holds an existential angst, a fear of pain that finds a way out not in philosophy, but in music. « We’re tired of walking, but we can’t find a way back home » cries Gabriel Garzón-Montano in “Fruitflies”, perhaps the most pessimistic song of the album. Starting rather joyfully, the song builds up to a Dantean climax, to finally go back to the upbeat figure of the beginning. And maybe it is the message of the album: leave room for your environment to grow through you, and you may find the answers that lie within yourself.[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/301213592″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
It feels like I only scratched the surface of an album holding big promises. There are a million things to say about it, but I can only encourage others to listen to it and to grow their own interpretation of this multicultural, genre-crossing piece of art. I can only say that coming from a young artist that has not yet given the full ambit of his potentiality, this is the most pleasing thing that I heard in a long time in Soul music and I trust it will even get better.