Jose Neil Gomes Embraces Minimalism and Diversity on New Solo Album
The multi-instrumentalist brings together electronic music, intriguing voice samples and more on the 16-track ‘Google Maps for Lovers’
If you met the curly-haired, friendly-faced multi-instrumentalist Jose Neil Gomes more than a decade ago, he would have likely told you he’s training to be a Catholic priest. At some other point, he might tell you he’s studying philosophy or journalism and advertising, or the time he was “unsatisfactorily pursuing” a Master’s degree in English literature or teaching in schools. The 30-something from Goa says he eventually stumbled upon music as a way of life. “It’s been quite a rollercoaster,” Gomes says.
For someone who’s worked with the likes of mainstream artists such as Kailash Kher and Sunidhi Chauhan as well as rock bands like Tough On Tobacco and Hipnotribe, Gomes even had his own project Stitch In Nine, which was in action since 2010. It involved seasoned artists such as bassist Nathan Thomas, drummer Dhir Mody and producer Pruthu Parab. Gomes says, “Stitch In Nine took a new shape, and direction, moving from a guitar-driven sound to a more thicker and experimental synth-based sound… jungle, electronic, drum and bass.” It’s what led to Gomes writing his solo album Google Maps for Lovers, which released on April 26th.
For some, the 16-track album – which clocks in at an hour and five minutes – might seem as self-indulgent, but it’s essentially Gomes making his most personal album. He says, “One thing I’ve learnt from such a plethora of collaborations, is that I have to play music that makes me happy. And luckily all sounds intrigue me, ranging from folk to jazz to techno.” On Google Maps for Lovers, there’s excursions into club-friendly electronic (“Love is Deaf,” “Free Your Mind,” “Left from HDFC”), psychedelic, evocative jams (the title track and “Vibes Orient”) and poignant violin-led melancholic tracks like “Tree Outside.” Gomes says, “The idea was to have a synthesis of strings and synths.” Mody played drums on a few tracks, as well as Thomas and fellow Kailasa bandmate Naresh Kamath.
Watch the video for “Fever” ft MC Tod Fod below.
As much as there’s structure on the album, a lot of tracks just flow freely for the few (or many) minutes they run on for, like “Bitter Butter Better,” in which Gomes uses live looping. On songs like the groovy “Speed Breakers” – and several others – there’s plenty of voice samples worked in, often morphed for mind bending effect. It could be flight announcements, or Gomes’ own musings, but also voices of people he knows. He says, “I’ve always been fascinated with the way people from different parts of the world talk to each other, and how geography decides someone’s speech.” He offers a glimpse of auto rickshaw wallah wisdom on “Speed Breakers,” courtesy of a driver named Mehboob Khan. Gomes says, “As soon as I got on, he instinctively burst into deep philosophical conversation and I started my phone recorder.”
But perhaps the most recognizable voice sample is that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which kicks off the lead single “Fever,” featuring rapper Tod Fod aka Dharmesh Parmar (from hip-hop crew Swadesi). Gomes says he was pointed towards Tod Fod by producer-beatboxer Yung.Raj in 2016. “Tod Fod slayed that first improv jam we did at the gig, and I knew right then that I’d found that one collaborator on this album,” the multi-instrumentalist says. It’s a much more aggressive track, with Tod Fod doing the honors of exposing government corruption and lies.
For Gomes, travel is a central theme on Google Maps for Lovers. That explains why he’s on the road again, currently in Amsterdam to “replenish and restore” himself and prep for taking on the role of a music producer and finish his follow-up album Queen of Spades. Ever the collaborator, Gomes is also seeking out musician friends like German artist Tobias Feltes, Amsterdam-based vocalist Julia Werner and French trumpeter Erik Truffaz. Gomes adds, “I feel one chapter of making music has come to a close. The next nine years are going to be a collection of all these ideas and refining them, and polishing myself as a producer more than the music maker.”
Stream the album below. Hear it on Apple Music here.