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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Sei Miguel – Salvation Modes (Clean Feed) ****

By Chris Haines

I hadn’t heard of Sei Miguel before approaching this album, which now seems ludicrous as he’s been actively releasing albums of experimental music since the late 1980’s, with the likes of Manuel Mota and Rafael Toral coming through his ensembles and in the process becoming more well-known than their original mentor. Over the years he has trodden a very consistent stylistic path, which has naturally developed during the course of time and can be clearly heard when listening to music from his back catalogue.

 His early albums are adorned with pin-up style photos of himself which any self-respecting pop star would love to have, whilst the music contained inside is completely avant-garde yet also very personal in style. Throughout his career he seems to have built-up a very individual aesthetic that doesn’t appear to have deviated from his original focus.

 The music on Salvation Modes continues in this rich vein with the first piece ‘Prelúdio e Cruz de Sala’ starting very quietly and containing a lot of space within the music with different sounds gradually entering softly. Having carefully built this calm and relaxed soundscape an electronic buzz-saw type sound then gate crashes the scene completely cutting through the musical fabric in stark disparity. This contrast of sounds seems to be something that is part of his compositional principles where timbres are carefully chosen not just for their moment-to-moment dynamism but also for the overall shape and structure of the piece. Just as important within that strategy is the use of silence, which Miguel uses to heighten the effect of his music.

The other two pieces ‘Fermata’, which contains a ground of white-noise throughout and is the shorter of the three tracks, and ‘Cantata Mussarana’ apparently based on a Creole purification ritual containing the voice of Kimi Djabaté as a central focal point, round out the album and continue in the same stylistic trait as those familiar with Sei Miguel’s music would expect. As a trumpet player he seems to have devoted himself to the exclusive use of pocket trumpet over the years with a tone that’s not too dissimilar to that of Miles Davis, particularly through the use of his muted tone and short bursts of melodic phrases.

 The personnel used on this album are André Gonçalves (organ), César Burago (percussion), Ernesto Rodrigues (viola), his long-term stalwart Fala Mariam (trombone), Kimi Djabaté (voice), Luis Desirat (drums), Margarida Garcia (twin?!), Monsieur Trinité (Bandoneon), Nuno Torres (alto saxophone), Pedro Gomes (guitar), Pedro Lourenço (bass), Rafael Toral (electronics) and himself, Sei Miguel (pocket trumpet). These musicians are not employed on all tracks but appear in carefully handpicked combinations over each of the three pieces.

 I find Sei Miguel’s music very sensuous and highly emotive and even though it appears to have been thought through systematically and intellectually it is a very personal music, which is a natural extension of his life’s work so far. Salvation Modes is a great continuation of this style and the man’s artistic vision. Let’s hope that his first three albums, which are now very hard to find, get a reissue onto CD in the near future!

Available from Instantjazz.


allan said...

Nice review Chris.
I commented once before that I have a love/hate relationship with Sei Miguel's recordings.
Although they are certainly not something I would want to listen to everyday, I still keep being drawn back to them and always hear something new!
Like you, I hope enough interest is being generated to prompt the first 3 LP's and the CD "The Portuguese Man of War" to be re-issued.

PS -I just love the cool cover to "Still Alive in Bairro Alto"

Martin Schray said...

"Turbina Anthem", his duo album with Pedro Gomes NoBusiness, is still available on vinyl (although limited to 300 copies).

Michael Campbell said...

I've been interested in Sei Miguel since his austere and beautiful "The Tone Gardens" album. 'Salvation Modes' is great.