Gabriel Garzón-Montano
The Game

Musical identity is a nebulous concept that has a significant impact on how listeners interpret, relate to, and appreciate music. It is an amalgamation of many characteristics–only one of which is the sound itself. It determines how we categorize and, often, immortalize musicians (i.e. Biggie and Tupac forever enshrined as icons of a classic era in hip-hop). The release of a debut album is an artist’s single best opportunity to assert their artistic persona–a musical first impression is as important as any. Take Kanye West’s The College Dropout, or Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon Pt 1; two hugely popular albums that put soon-to-be breakout stars’ skills and talents on full display. In a similar vein, Gabriel Garzón-Montano’s debut LP, Jardín, is a bold declaration of Garzón-Montano’s ingenuity– one that gives him the potential to be a mainstay of today’s crowded music landscape.

Brooklyn native Garzón-Montano is the son of Colombian and French immigrant parents, and his heritage certainly contributes to his musical identity. He cites his father’s Colombian roots as a source of inspiration. That appreciation of salsa and cumbia manifests itself in the funky and rhythmic nature of several tracks on the album. Garzón-Montano attributes his original love for music to his mother–a classically trained musician who passed those skills down. The two contrasting influences mix beautifully on “Bombo Fabrika,” a track that features cello accompaniment alongside a syncopated groove that subtly commands you to dance. 

Garzón-Montano’s courageous use of vocals at the forefront proves a defining characteristic of the album and a risk that paid off. Although he is undeniably a talented and creative multi-instrumentalist, Garzón-Montano’s vocals stand out. Gabriel makes no efforts to hide his singing behind any distortion or reverb. In fact, his approach to singing is quite the opposite. Garzón-Montano’s lyrics ring true with extreme clarity, deliberately superseding other instrumentation through his production style. “Crawl”, the soulful single released in anticipation of Jardín, is an apt display of his captivating vocal performances. The official music video’s minimalist, abstract, and colorful qualities mirror Garzón-Montano’s style as a musician. 

With a delivery reminiscent to that of Frank Ocean in its versatility, Garzón-Montano’s timbre can range from silky-smooth to hauntingly emotional. On his funkier works, he employs smoky, raspier affectations to his tenor, much like recently successful funk/rap star Anderson .Paak. In addition to being a hallmark of his sound, voice is also just another instrument that GGM utilizes in his tonal arsenal. Garzón-Montano multi-layers harmonizations of his own voice with a groovy bassline and driving snare drums to achieve a supremely funky, old-school sound on “The Game”.

Attention to detail is another pillar of Garzón-Montano’s musical identity. GGM credits his mother’s rigorous classical training for developing a keen ear, which is exemplified in the production quality. The creation process seems to be an intensive labor of love for Gabriel; he records every instrument, from guitar to bass to drums, over tape before digitally layering them into his tracks. Meticulosity is rewarded with tight, flawless creations in which every layer shines through in perfect harmony. “Fruitflies,” another standout track features thundering piano chords, heavy use of the Moog synthesizer, and GGM’s hallmark crooning.

If Jardín was Gabriel Garzón-Montano’s opportunity to make a lasting impression on the music world, he fully seized it, in triumphant fashion nonetheless. Jardín is a brilliant exposition of musical identity from an extremely talented individual. Garzón-Montano’s dedicated approach to creation and musical savvy that effortlessly blends neo-soul, funk, and pop secure his lasting power as an artist. This debut LP is out today, January 27th, 2017, through Stone’s Throw Records. After such a strong initial offering, we’re excited to see what happens next with Gabriel Garzón-Montano.

You can grab the album over on iTunes or listen on Spotify at those links.

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