Portuguese bassist and composer Hugo Carvalhais never stops surprising us. After two internationally acclaimed albums with his piano (and synthesizer)-bass-drums trio complemented by guests like Tim Berne, Émile Parisien and Dominique Pifarély, here he comes again with something completely different, even if the French violinist is again involved. Now, there’s no drumset on sight, but we can’t point it as a contemporary version of chamber music because of the electronics involved: Gabriel Pinto’s keyboards and Jeremiah Cymerman’s computer processing. There’s an overall strangeness in this interpretation of the book trilogy “Valis”, by science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick, but you also feel seduced by the dreamlike sound waves. And in familiar terrain – after all, it’s still jazz, it’s still organic and it’s still vibrant and full of humanity. The bass lines breath, giving us the impression that this music is a mix of living bodies. Everything is ambiguous here, from the omnipresent retro-futuristic organ chords to the either ethereal or grainy atmospheres. It’s that paradoxical factor which keeps the mystery from start to end. When it does end you want to go to the beginning right after and solve your puzzlement, but you can’t. “Grand Valis” is a world in itself and its resistance to your reasoning is what makes you return to it again and again, trying to find out why you’re addicted.
All compositions by Hugo Carvalhais except #2 and #9 by Carvalhais and Gabriel Pinto
Recorded 10 – 14 January 2014 by João Ferraz at Quinta da Música, Porto / Mixed and mastered by João Ferraz
Produced by Hugo Carvalhais / Executive production by Pedro Costa for Trem Azul
Liner notes by Stéphane Ollivier