Chad Valley: after chill waves have crashed, there’s one British dreamer who still stands strong
The winter of sophisticated discontent is on its way out. In its place? Blazing heat, big fat club bangers, and a hot ticket back to the early 1990s. Excess! Neon! A time when ‘’avin it’ wasn’t tempered by irony or heinous ‘guilty pleasures’. Take Friendly Fires’ new album, ‘Pala’. It’s chock-full of megahits that sound like Take That getting wrecked on high-class pills. There’s nothing classy or po-faced about that.
It’s with a similarly sleazy thrum in his strut that Chad Valley, aka Hugo Manuel, moves: dodgy ’90s piano house in his ears and R Kelly’s boldly smooth licks at heart. “I’m aiming to bring back really slick, well-thought out production,” Hugo (also a member of Jonquil and Oxfordian movement Blessing Force) declares. “I’m listening to loads of Madonna and Kylie, trying to work out how to write those kind of massive pop songs. The other day I was listening to Aqua’s ‘Barbie Girl’ – it’s fantastic; I love the stabby synth piano sounds. It feels we’re due this revival.”
‘Equatorial Ultravox’, Hugo’s glorious, forthcoming second EP, screams the ’90s louder than wearing a Fresh Prince T-shirt and trading Pogs in the playground. ‘U Will Know’-era D’Angelo could easily have used the opening bars of ‘Reach Lines’ as a soundbed for seduction, and ‘Shapeless’ offers the perfect tempo for a spate of serious big-fish-little-fish hand jiving. But before Hugo prepares to get out of his bedroom (he’s just quit his job and moved back in with his parents), there’s an albatross lingering from his self-titled first EP that needs to be shaken off.
“Are we talking about chillwave?!” he laughs. Well, you brought it up. “I’m trying to be less lo-fi. I’m bored with that. I can see why people said that about my work, but I want to knock the c-word on the head.” And rightly so: it was only ever a watery dilution of the massive, gaudy pop that everyone else was too meek to make. But Hugo? “I want to get some bigshot producer in, a choir, an orchestra. I want to make really big statements with this album.” Now all he needs is a ’90s-sized advance to fund it.
Need To Know
• Hugo’s ultimate slow jam is ‘I’m Comin’ Home (Chopped & Screwed remix)’, by Bostonian ’80s smoothboys New Edition
• Until recently, he worked in his parents’ posh paint shop up on Oxford’s Cowley Road
• Those slippery, sonorous, not-quite-real-world croons you hear on Chad Valley records? Hugo calls it “yoghurting”
This article originally appeared in the May 7th issue of NME