Pão – Pão (Shhpuma 002)
I really like the foreboding intro to this album, the latest release from the new Portuguese label Shhpuma. It straight away sets an ambiance and a suspense, a feeling that you are in for something really good. It’s like there is something in the mud just ahead. You can’t see it yet, but it can see you. It is waiting until you get too involved to turn around and run. It waits until it can make a clean strike. Cymbals crash like dead branches beneath your feet, the saxophone is blowing wind through the trees all around you. Where is it?
Track 2, ‘Dyson Tree’, picks up where track 1 ‘Gods wait do delight in you’ leaves off, with a continuous drone being churned out by Tiago Sousa (keyboards, organ, harmonium and percussion) with a very restrained saxophone implying a melody in the background. Before long, however, your ear is drawn away from the tones and is forced to pay closer attention to the sax solo. Pedro Sousa (tenor saxophone) weaves a wonderfully slow, distraught display of subtlety and places it perfectly into the aural atmosphere constantly being set by Tiago Sousa and Travassos (tapes, amplified objects, circuit bending, voice). Because of this mood and tempo, the solo, thoughtfully, takes its own sweet time to fully develop but throughout its journey, it continues to change, search and explore multiple ideas until it finishes on fire. As track 2 was fading to its conclusion, I was already looking forward to the final and longest track on the recording.
Could what was hiding in the mud be something beautiful after all?
‘It was all downhill after the swing’, starts with Pedro Sousa displaying an orchestras worth of extended technique, chirps, and throaty effects before giving way to the electronics that were building momentum behind him all along. There are moments when the saxophone and the harmonium blend together so well that it becomes difficult to tell them apart. Around the 9 minute mark, the suspense starts to build again as percussion elements take a larger role and big powerful key changes in the tone wall signify a shift in control of the melodic elements of the track. There is a real sense of urgency at play here but no rush, a very important difference indeed. It is an unknown destination with no maps and no time limit but just the feeling that they absolutely have to get there.
Eventually, whatever was in the mud, turns around and heads back very pleased with itself.
Considering that this is only the second release from Shhpuma, they are already proving to have a great set of collective ears which will hopefully translate into longevity and many continued intriguing releases.