Saturday, 7 July 2018

Mercedes Peón ‎– Ajrú (2003)

Style: Celtic, Folk, Tribal
Format: CD
Label: Discmedi ‎– DM 838-02

01.   Neniñué
02.   É Xera
03.   Maria 2
04.   Ese Es Ti
05.   Ajrú (Primeira Parte)
06.   Ajrú (Segunda Parte)
07.   Nanareggae
08.   Maria 1
09.   Ó Meu Amigo
10.   Étnica
11.   Momentos
12.   Marmuladora

The second release from Galician vocalist/piper Mercedes Peón may at first startle and disorient you. Its instrumental sparseness is in tension with lush, high-tech production, the traditional forms melded with a modern aural attack. Peón's voice, powerfully driven and intense, yet capable of seductive gentleness, contends for primacy on Ajrú with dynamic but nuanced and varied percussion, her gaita playing icing on the cake. Once you have regained your balance, you'll appreciate a carefully crafted and sequenced recording, tracks positioned just where you need them for dramatic effect and narrative coherence. 
"Neniñué," the beginning track, fades in with polyrhythmic bongos and occasional synth whines; Peón's powerful voice keens and penetrates in a marginally dissonant introduction. Primary percussion kicks in along with a stuttering, percussive piano, Peón's multi-tracked vocals interspersed with gaita, both wonderfully shrill over insistent galloping drums and bass. Based on a traditional xota, "É Xera" is a lively rolling waltz featuring accordion, piano, and low clarinet, Peón's vocal nasal, lilting, and delicate. "Maria 2" is an appropriately frenzied evocation of lust at first sight in the club, Peón delivering an impassioned solo introduction in a reverberative distance before high-speed drums and heavy breathing get the obsession into high gear. The vocal approaches and recedes, a device used to good effect on other tracks. You may feel the need for a rest after this track, which is fortunately followed by "Ese Es Ti," a calm, dreamy waltz washed with cosmic synth waves, flute, and violin, the vocal equally languid and sweet, the lyrics satisfied, perhaps a depiction of later that night back at home. 
The title track, produced in two parts, begins with a stiff waltz, saturated with varied percussion, gaita, and marimbas, Peón's voice at its ululating best. The second part features much denser instrumentation, including roaring samples and electric guitar, cryptic lyrics and Peón's declamatory delivery suggesting a magic spell. "Nanareggae" offers another dramatic respite, a sleepy reggae beat, 'conscious' lullaby lyrics, constant castanets in the background, and accordion circling around the vocal line. "Maria 1," the single most exciting track, begins with playful laughter and moderately brutal beat with two gaitas in tight harmony, the vocal echoing deep in the background, gradually approaching amidst a grinding din of percussion, the beat doubling as the gaita melody morphs and elaborates. "Ó Meu Amigo/Étnica" begins with water sounds and calm narration, a rolling beat. A background vocal fugue is soon added, the main vocal line dramatically emerging from reverb at the end of a figure, the production receding again to sparse water sounds before the sudden entry of thundering, bounding percussion. 
Peón's is a voice you don't want to miss, and Ajrú makes the most of it. 
Jim Foley / RoostWorld

VA ‎– Antologia De Música Atípica Portuguesa Vol.1: O Trabalho (2017)

Style: Avantgarde, Experimental
Formtat: Vinyl
Label: Discrepant ‎– CREP 35

01.   Live Low - Antiplot
02.   Negra Branca - O Espatelar Do Linho
03.   EITR - Cicuta
04.   Luar Domatrix - Bocadinho De Alentjo
05.   Gonzo - Agora Baixou O Sol = Now The Sun Is Down
06.   Tiago Morais Morgado - Laurindinha
07.   Filipe Felizardo - Sede E Morte
08.   Gonzo & Luar Domatrix - Já Lá Gritam No Calvário
09.   Calhau! - Pecunibal
10.   Peter Forest - A Maria Cavaca (Trad. Working Song)

Mastered By – Rashad Becker
Artwork [Photo Collages] – Ruca Bourbon
Layout – Gonçalo F. Cardoso

Gathered together on this new compilation series are Portuguese artists that stretch back into the past with the same inquisition as they press into the future, allured both by the original significance of tradition and the opportunity to reframe it. The theme of the first volume is “o Trabalho” (which translates as “work”), with the sounds here predominantly driven by steam and muscle and persistence: trains horns toot as they trundle through the countryside with cargo in tow, drums mimic the metronomic impact of axes and hammers, work songs liberate minds from the drudge of repetitious labour. These physical gestures are then smeared, serrated and bled into the apparatus of the modern day, with choral winds blistered by distortion (Filipe Felizardo), chants arcing over gentle synthesiser tides (Gonzo) and guttural throat-song set inside bitcrusher crystals (Calhau!). 
Despite the strong spirit of manipulation and collage, the general shape of those recorded historical artefacts are kept largely intact, which means that even the compilation’s most abstract flights maintain a connection with the earth below. On Negra Branca’s “O Espatelar Do Linho”, the present is a comet trail pouring out of antiquity: synthesisers follow the ascent of mass song as it breaks through the ceiling, buoyed by chimes and the patter of mallet percussion, imbuing the jovial rise of voice with the shimmer of the cosmic. Meanwhile, the intertwining vocoder chants of Tiago Morais Morgado – whose low notes blur into gigantic rumbles of synthetic voice, grinding against eachother tectonic plates – maintain a visceral, thoroughly human depth through their fizz of electronic filtering. In retaining the essence of their source material, all of these artists exhibit a fascination with not just the sonic qualities of these sounds, but also the historical narratives that have carried their significance into the present.