Chad Valley, alias of Oxford, England native Hugo Manuel, is an upbeat indie-dance project that formed in 2010 as a solo departure from Manuel’s indie-folk group Jonquil. Chad Valley is a part of the Oxford based artist and musician community known as Blessing Force. With angelic vocals, dreamy soundscapes and Caribbean rhythmic sensibilities, Chad Valley charmed fans and critics with his 2011 debut Equatorial Ultravox on Loose Lips Records. After garnering positive reviews in high profile music publications, Chad Valley is currently embarking on a world tour.
Oxford, England is an odd place to start a project whose major influences seem to be neon beaches and tropical rain forests, but that hasn’t stopped Oxford native Hugo Manuel from doing just that with his Chad Valley project. Manuel’s new Equatorial Ultravox EP and 2010’s Chad Valley EP have a lot in common with American chillwavers like Washed Out and Toro y Moi; you’ll find the signature hazy vocals, house beats, and waves of slowly cascading synths. But in a scene known for being summery, Chad Valley leads the pack in tropical pizazz. If you happen to own a linen suit laced with blinking LEDs, crank up Chad Valley and put it to use! “Now That I’m Real” kicks off Equatorial Ultravox with a synth line that would make MGMT proud, while keyboards hang out in the background like psychedelic steel drums, and bongos add to the island vibes. The star, however, is Manuel’s vocals, which he smothers in effects and uses like an instrument, singing a wordless chorus. You imagine that voice soundtracking a Club Med commercial in a much cooler alternative universe. On “Shell Suite,” Manuel builds a wall of reverb-y synths and guitar that meld together in a sunny haze and allow his vocal hooks to drive the song. “Anything” off the Chad Valley EP sees Manuel exercising his R&B chops to excellent effect. The funky bassline and auto-tuned vocals combined with his hazy, reverb-y M.O. helps it sound like a dreamy reflection of U.S. R&B chart toppers. “Ensoniq Funk” is Manuel’s dance banger, and maybe the most compelling track he’s made to date. He adds layer after layer of funky, glowing synths over each other, but wisely lets his vocals come to the front. The man’s got a gift for vocal hooks and Manuel’s duet with himself will warm parties from Ibiza to chilly Oxford flats.