Consumed in Key

Consumed in Key

Richie Hawtin’s third LP as Plastikman, 1998’s Consumed, is, for many electronic music fans, a sacred album. Inspired by the absorbing work of visual artists such as James Turrell and Anish Kapoor, the record's sleek lines, creeping beats, and subtle synth phrases rendered club music in moody, inky blacks—stripping it back to its essence while helping to bend techno toward its ruminative, minimalist phase. Twenty years later, pianist, composer, and singer Chilly Gonzales discovered Consumed while he was clicking around the internet, and was immediately entranced by it. “The album was getting out of some of what I thought to be the clichés of electronic music,” Gonzales (real name: Jason Beck) tells Apple Music. “It felt like it was jazz accomplished by other means. A kind of science-fiction jazz, not using jazz instruments, not with the typical virtuosity of jazz that fills up every bar with notes. But a kind of futuristic jazz that really appealed to me.” So Chilly sat down and started playing piano along to Consumed, reacting in real time and sowing the seeds for what would become Consumed in Key, a collaborative electro-acoustic reinterpretation of Hawtin’s landmark LP. Gonzales got in touch with his and Hawtin’s mutual friend, Montreal DJ/producer Tiga, and together they presented the concept along with some demos. “I was worried immediately,” Hawtin says. “One, I was like, 'Who adds on to an album that was so much about reduction? Do we really need to revisit this? Why?' There was a lot for me to overcome.” But as Hawtin let the idea simmer—the very essence of his profession as a DJ is to repurpose, reassemble, and recontextualize others' works, after all—he gave the project his blessing and would stay hands-off until the end, his only caveat being that he would mix the final tracks. “The whole thing kind of happened in a bit of a haze, and I sort of approached the entire work as one giant work, much as Richie did in the original,” says Gonzales. “He sees it as an hour and 12 minutes of one energy arc. And so the challenge here was to try to follow that in its long-form complexity and just to do so much deep listening so I could understand what was happening in the original and to mirror that. And find acoustic counterparts for everything that Richie was doing on the original.” “It was really a leap of faith and trust in Chilly as a musician and Tiga as a friend and a fan that they were going to lead it in the right direction,” Hawtin says. Here, he walks us through some of Consumed in Key’s highlights. “Contain (In Key)” "I love ‘Contain' because it was the first one that really came together. I mixed it in a way that Chilly comes in from the background with some added effects—which he usually doesn't add onto his piano—to give the idea that he was creeping into the album. And there's even some small little back-edits to reference my edits and Detroit [techno], just to give it a slight, alien, manufactured, robotic sense for the first part. It's like, 'Okay, is it Chilly coming in? Is this part of Consumed that was there, and it's more machines talking?' And then as things go, I think you find more of the feeling of Chilly's human side coming in throughout the album." “Consume (In Key)” "This is another beautiful moment. It’s probably the most radical reworking, because there was a part where Jason was building up to—I don't think Tiga and him were that sure about what I did, but that's where I get really playful and kind of filter all of Consumed away just to build up and subtract and then allow ‘Consume' to come back in underneath Chilly as he starts to bring these little phrases in. That was the only way I could get that to work. It felt like we really needed to push Consumed away and let Chilly take center stage at that moment and then bring back and intertwine them again." “Cor Ten (In Key)” "This is also where there was some discussion back and forth in the final mix phase with Chilly and Tiga and I. Chilly was really pushing to have some moments where really it's just him. And so I wasn't sure about that and 'Cor Ten' starts and actually in the end we take 'Cor Ten' completely away and just let Chilly come in. And then it's this slight back-edit and then 'Cor Ten' comes in a couple of bars later. It was such the right idea of taking that pause to just let you take a breath and come back to the acoustic world and nearly like resurface from Consumed and then get very gradually and gently sucked back into the dance of us together. We didn't really talk during this process, so Chilly was learning about my personality by listening to a 25-year-old album. And I was listening when I was mixing, quite often just soloing his work and learning about how he plays piano. I think that those moments in the album of not only silence from the original album but also silence to enjoy this new added layer was very, very important. The beginning of 'Cor Ten' is absolutely a beautiful moment of this new album." “Locomotion (In Key)” "I think [the project is] like a relationship, and we start to get more playful as we go deeper into the album. So when we get to ‘Locomotion,' which was problematic for me when he sent me that first demo—I think it's a masterpiece of the album now, because it's like he's playing off of me. And then it's nearly like I'm playing off of him, even though he wasn't there in the beginning. And it's just like this beautiful syncopation, and also moments where he stops and lets Consumed breathe as originally composed, and then comes back in. It's like a beautiful— I don't know if it's a salsa dance or a jazz dance, but really like two people intertwined.” “In Side (In Key)” "This is one of the long tracks towards the end, which is just a 303 very, very slow. And this has some, again, little effects at different moments on different phrases. I think that's interesting because Chilly was listening, and then adding his, and then I added some Consumed-ish delays very subtly in the background, which just uplift—not make it any better, because what he did already was beautiful, but just make the two albums really sing together."


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