Tuesday, 6 October 2009

tropa macaca

Are a portuguese band that I saw quite a while ago at Museu do Chiado in Lisbon fairly recently. It was a concert that I initially forgot about fairly quickly, then remembered a day or so after and started looking for some recorded material. And now, even later, I'll try to describe what I remember from the live set jogged by audio ive got hold off, apologies for any inaccuracies.
Two musicians: Ju-Undo on samples, keys, and effects and Simio Superior on guitar with various pedals (i didn't check the tech set up precisely. i used to do this a lot after shows, but have found it sometimes kills things). The room was blacked out aside from squiggly thin green lasers that refracted through glass plinths and wriggled all over the walls. Often silly light shows are distracting, but here it aptly complemented the mobile starkness of the music.
The two start slowly and deliberately, eventually playing off each other, lolloping along arrhythmic valleys, building to stilted peaks of throbbing sound and a steadier pulse. Ju undo lives up to her soundalike, flicking and tampering with samples that are dry and itchy but with an almost concrete like clarity of tone rather than glitch. This is augmented by obtuse and skronky guitar phrasings by simio superior, often taking the instrument very far away from itself.
The qualities of some of the sounds used here are almost gauche, a rawness, but have a vitality in the details of their usage. some parts of it are close to the timbres, riffs and rhythms of earlier dance and soundsystem music (by earlier I think Im trying to mean not over-produced and filtered). This carries an energy and primacy, not just by association.
A strong momentum is created, but not under anything you could call a consistent groove; at the same time stasis is distorted and any sort of regularity evaporates quickly, caught between stepping and tripping. this tension is a taut and delicious space to be in. its almost funky but not not greasy enough, club-suited music but not consistent enough. it doesnt have heavy low end but makes you feel it does.
The choices that are made in the live composition have the interspersions and bursts redolent of jazz or improv languages, the duo work through parts patiently, playing and repositioning, all the while engaging in a real time analysis of the possibilities of the material. Often there is stark space left uninhabitated, serving to emphasise the baldness of the some of the palettes they are using at the base of it all. They seem to have many different options, rather than the all-on-assault setting, or the quiet-loud-louder-gunge compositional strategy of many groups of their ilk.
In that sense, for helpful closest reference points, black dice would be the first, but not in a directly sonic way, more in the approach of how they overlap and toy with sounds. Its balances in rhythm sometimes come close to astral social club, but not the floating over exposure of its mix.
Tropa macaca make you mentally project other rhythms and sound memories into the spaces they open up, a difficult feat that many attempt to do by sheer dousing you in layered sludginess. This is immersive, but pretty skimpy in relation to the traditional perceptions of what this is meant to sound like. They walk the tightrope on a lot of fine balances, and succeed in mapping something really fizzy and rewarding.

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