a closer listen

Paulo J Ferreira Lopes ~ Feeze


The inaugural release from Atrito-Afeito, a new Montreal-based label specializing in small runs of improvised music.  For Feeze, drummer, multi-instrumentalist, composer, and sound artist Paulo J Ferreira Lopes has crafted 10 compositions culled from synth explorations recorded in Montreal back in 2000.  Ferreira Lopes began playing music over 30 years ago in his native Portugal, limiting his live performances to contexts that privilege the act of improvisation.  That which works in a live ensemble might not always transfer well to a recording, but Ferreira Lopes is able to transfer his long experience into highly compelling electronic worlds.

Feeze presents a diverse series of  sonic landscapes ranging from skittering rhythms to lumbering drones.  The opening track “Eventualidade” builds gradually from a low flutter to a high-pitched whistle, fading out ever so gradually.  I’m reminded a bit of Gas, though instead of encountering a rave in the forest, the muffled sounds recall something more like hearing an alarm from across a loft party while in a hazy state of inebriation.   The eponymous track begins much more kinetically, and truly sounds like a percussionists sensibility behind the module.  The underlying beat isn’t quite predictable but is regular enough to drive the track forward and ground the wanderings going on above, perhaps not unlike a freer, blurry version of Harmonia.  In fact, much of the album recalls aspects of the proto-industrial work of Conrad Schnitzler, Klaus Schulze, even some Moebius & Plank… that is, the best of German kosmische music, though minus the discreet drum programming.  Occasionally some of the pieces even suggest techno, such as the plodding “Dance,” though even these tracks are far too abstract for the dance floor.  Rather the rhythmic elements give Ferreira Lopes an element to build tension against, and serve to structure the album as a whole.  Many of the tracks, such as “Premonition, ”  are quite short, around one to three minutes in length, though they seem even shorter.  These compositions do not wear out their welcome, but rather leave the listener craving more.   They drift slowly, establishing a sense of place but not lingering too long.  “Premonition” paves the way for “Norte,”  the second longest track at 6:19, lumbering unhurriedly, slow and arrhythmic but maintaining a quality of levity.

Under a low pulse, the high end flutters suggestively in “Capsule,” quickly transitioning into the lower tones, skimming the surface of “Recept” before crashing out.  These imagist false starts were just setting the stage for the cornerstone of the album.  At 16:50, “Transuent” occupies almost half the 40 minute disk.  Whereas the previous tracks were content to fade back into the void after establishing a mood or image, here Ferreira Lopes pushes the plateau to the breaking point.  Not reliant on dynamics, instead “Transuent” slowly cycles through repetitive cycles in a deeply meditative way that has no relation to the techniques of “New Age” synth music.  The final two tracks, “Destino” and “Post,” are a fitting denouement.  “Destino” ratchets up the tension in a near abrasive drone, and “Post” lumbers to life, increasing in frenetic activity right up until the curtain drops.

Though the sessions that produced this album are now 13 years old, they’re certainly worthy of a proper release.  Considering the recent renewed interest in analogue synth music (forgotten legends like JD Emmanuel and young upstarts like 0PN and Emeralds), Feeze is sure to find a dedicated audience, inviting repeat listens, and probably remixes as well.  Keep an eye on this label. (Joseph Sannicandro)