40 tracks is quite a lot, but as a free download, it’s more of an abundance than an over-indulgence. Luis Antero‘s travels across Portugal, the country “planted by the sea”, are lovingly preserved as a series of sonic postcards for our listening pleasure, and listening is indeed like flipping through photos or cards. A child runs in the rain; a marketeer yells as birds flutter and cars go by; busses stop to disperse passengers.
Many of these moments are interchangeable with those of other countries; we all have transportation, we all have rain. The recording comes to life in the more unique settings: the heavy water and conversation of “Água Doce (Setúbal)”, the dogs and wind chimes of “Ovelhas (Alvoco das Várzeas)”, the cowbells of “Gado de vária qualidade (Galizes)”. “Hóquei (Oliveira do Hospital)” is an unusual highlight, as it presents whistles and whirls where one might expect hospital beeps and moans. The choral “Sé Velha 2011 (Coimbra)” is sweet and subdued.
Many people speak throughout the recording. In one sense, it’s a barrier not to know the language; in another, unfamiliarity is an aid that allows one to concentrate on inflection and sound. It would be disappointing to learn that everyone was talking about the weather.
In some spots, the sequencing works against the collection, especially when a louder, busier track is followed by a quieter, sparser one. This makes some pieces seem superfluous rather than integral. It’s easy to see why Antero kept everything in, because it’s hard to let go of memory; but in so doing, he sacrifices flow. Since the collection is too long to fit on a single disc, the savvy home listener may choose to make edits. There’s so much raw material here that it would be a shame for Antero not to at least consider creating a soundscape, perhaps grouping all of the water sounds together, cutting back on the dialogue, and building to the album’s highlight, “Brazilian Bambolea (São Gião)”, which in the current sequencing appears way too early as Track 2.
As a collection, the album works, although as a straightforward album it does not. Few will wish to relive the entire experience in order, but many will choose to revisit parts. In this sense, Postais Sonoros honors the spirit of travel and the way in which the mind selects highlights to savor and share. (Richard Allen)