Jose Gonzalez, Tin Angel, Coventry

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The Independent Culture

On the day his debut album, Veneer, is released by Peacefrog Records, Sweden's Jose Gonzalez plays what must surely be the most intimate gig of this UK tour.

On the day his debut album, Veneer, is released by Peacefrog Records, Sweden's Jose Gonzalez plays what must surely be the most intimate gig of this UK tour. The Tin Angel is a small corner bar, crammed with a dedicated audience of regulars that have been gathering a reputation as one the singer-songwriter circuit's most attentive. Gonzalez plays his songs at a level where even stray whispering would be an intrusion, let alone clinking glasses or ring tones. Instead, attention is sharply focused, and silence reigns in the crowd.

Jose's Argentinian parents raised him in Gothenburg, and the end product is an unaffected-looking young man with closely-trimmed hair. He doesn't look like the wayward minstrel type. Apparently, Gonzalez has been a chart-topping artist in Sweden, which is some feat given the extreme introversion of his approach. In the beginning, Gonzalez senior gave his son two books of guitar tunes, one full of The Beatles, the other Brazilian bossa nova. The first bands that Jose played guitar with were hardcore, but then he studied flamenco and classical techniques.

Voice and guitar are blended at the service of his songs, entwining and caressing each other. Jose's picking technique comes across with greater breadth than when listening to his Veneer album and the earlier Crosses EP. He sets basslines in progress whilst picking high, spider-leg cascades, possessing something of a banjo texture when his strings ring and clang. These circular phrases act as a flowing stream under the minimalvocal lines, Jose fluttering softly his lovelorn abstractions.

Perhaps the cumulative effect of what amounts to a reproduction of the entire album is to sound too similar, as each song ripples at a similar rate, imbued with a similar mood. Like his album, Jose's set doesn't extend beyond essentials. The 45 minutes he gave felt like just the right amount. With such a quietly dominant style, even his cover versions are colonised by the Veneer sound, transformed by Jose's personalised sparseness.

His delivery is delicately controlled, emanating deep thought, but Gonzalez would benefit from some explanatory anecdotes to break up the songs, as well as a general increase in stagecraft. His strength lies in a romantic inwardness that he's able to communicate efficiently with like-minded souls. When he starts to sell more tickets, Jose will need to play in theatres, not just bigger clubs or bars.

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