Gonzalez’s acoustic, minimalist works are snapshots of human life to which people...
Gemma Padley 2007
Has anyone ever questioned how many hands Jose Gonzalez has? How anyone can keep as many melodic strands going at the same time is mind-boggling. In Our Nature, the follow up to 2005’s platinum selling Veneer sees Gonzalez return with his unique brand of acoustic guitar finger plucking, intoxicating and vital. While his debut became a record collection staple overnight (thanks in part to the success of his cover of The Knife’s “Heartbeats”), In Our Nature reignites much of album one’s passion.
Gonzalez must surely have felt the weight of expectation as he faced second album syndrome: how to offer something new to the listener while fulfilling his own ambitions. There is a danger of trying to be too clever, of over-working melodies and adding unnecessary instrumental accompaniments. But Gonzalez stays true to simplicity resisting the temptation of bigger sounds. His speciality: seamless fluid textures with their spider web woven delicacy are strong and subtly forceful throughout.
The album slithers into view with the dark, stealthy “How Low”. With lyrics such as ‘ill hustling, you’re feeding a monster’ and ‘punch line after punch line you’re leaving us sore’, the listener is left in no doubt as to the track’s political pointedness and Gonzalez’s own disillusionment at a world built upon broken promises.
But In Our Nature is not encumbered with songs demanding political reform; nor is it an album trying to be world shatteringly profound. Gonzalez’s focus is on human behaviour and the fundamental flaws in the human condition; he has little interest in being ‘seen to be’ anything other than a man who thrives on setting his observations to music.
And this is exactly where his appeal lies – Gonzalez’s acoustic, minimalist works are snapshots of human life to which people can relate. The title track is intensely comforting with its steady beat and softly hypnotic ‘it’s in our nature’ mantra, while “Fold” is breathtakingly beautiful in all its coaxing melodic simplicity and guileless charm. Gonzalez’s cover of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop” builds to intoxicating levels until it breaks lose, overwhelming in its spine-shivering splendour. Crowned by the searing “Cycling Trivialities”, this is a collection of songs questioning the futility of it all and the necessity of hope against grinding adversity. ‘How’s it gonna be?’ he asks. There are no answers, but Gonzales goes a long way in offering some comfort.