Compelling new Deutsche Grammophon album Room 29, a unique collaboration between Jarvis Cocker and Chilly Gonzales, asks what the ghosts of Hollywoods golden age can tell us about how we came to be where we are today.
Standing at the west end of Hollywoods Sunset Boulevard, the Chateau Marmont hotel has seen many a famous and infamous guest pass through its doors since it opened in 1929. A 2012 stay in one of its second-floor rooms inspired British lyricist and singer Jarvis Cocker to look into its history and led to this collaborative project with multi-faceted Canadian pianist and composer Chilly Gonzales: Room 29, a 21st-century song cycle. Gonzales score and Cockers lyrics conjure up the lives of some of Room 29s previous occupants, as well as shining a light on the glittering fantasy and often bleak reality of Hollywood.
If you must get in trouble, do it at the Chateau Marmont, noted Harry Cohn, founder of Columbia Pictures, in 1939. Jarvis Cocker was intrigued by the hotels links to the history of the film industry. He found the key to creativity in the fact that Room 29 contained a baby-grand piano. What if it could sing of the life stories and events it had witnessed? The idea also ignited Chilly Gonzaless imagination, and both artists embarked on a three-year journey of artistic discovery, unearthing details about guests such as Jean Harlow, Mark Twains daughter Clara, and Los Angeles mobster Meyer Cohen, alias Mickey the Haberdasher. As well as dramatising some of those stories, their songs capture both the essential loneliness of the hotel room and the ways in which moving images have moved people in ways they dont quite understand. Gonzales and Cocker have drawn on the 19th-century model of the song cycle for a structure capable of containing the broad sweep of emotions and states of mind elicited by the real and imaginary dramas of one unusual hotel suite. Room 29 emerges as metaphor for a place within each of us, home to our deepest desires and fantasies.
Since moving to Germany in the late 1990s, Chilly Gonzales has pursued a breathtaking range of musical projects, spanning everything from rap and experimental rock to hip hop and Satie-inspired minimalism. The classically trained pianist collaborated with the Kaiser Quartett on his last solo album, Chambers, attracting critical acclaim to its neo-Romantic reflections on chamber music in the age of pop. The Hamburg-based string quartet plays a prominent part in Room 29, providing a sonorous tonal complement to Gonzales piano writing and accompanying Jarvis Cockers vocals. Lead singer and primary lyricist of Pulp for over 30 years, on and off, Cocker has also released two solo albums, and developed a successful broadcasting career, presenting both Jarvis Cockers Sunday Service on BBC Radio 6 Music and BBC Radio 4s Wireless Nights.
Room 29 was recorded in Paris following its work-in-progress premiere at Hamburgs Kampnagel in January last year.
180g Vinyl LP
Limited time downloadable audio
1. Room 29
2. Marmont Overture
4. Interlude 1 - "Hotel Stationery"
7. Belle Boy
8. Howard Hughes Under The Microscope
2. Interlude 2 - "5 Hours A Day"
3. Daddy, You're Not Watching Me
4. The Other Side
5. The Tearjerker Returns
6. A Trick Of The Light
7. Room 29 (Reprise)
8. Ice Cream As Main Course