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Monday, June 20, 2022

Pedro Alves Sousa - Má Estrela (Shhpuma Records, 2022) - Portuguese electronics I

By Stef Gijssels

Our "Doom Jazz" label on the topic list of our blog is not the most crowded, but we can add this one that pushes the word jazz to the darkest corners of the musical universe. Portuguese tenor saxophonist Pedro Alves Sousa invites us to an electronic journey with Simão Simões and Bruno Silva on electronics, Miguel Abras on electric bass, and Gabriel Ferrandini on drums & electronics. 

The result is a masterpiece of musical collage, repetitions, overdubs, distorted sounds, multi-layered and dark, but at the same time compelling, infectious and full of emotional power. I am usually very suspicious and often quite averse even of the use of electronics in jazz, but here it works to perfection. The colliding sounds create a sonic wall over which Sousa's horn weaves repetitive wails, while the bass and the drums underpin the bizarre sound with emphatic bursts of power and energy, or quieten the whole movement down to eery moments of anticipation. Sousa's sax is further 'amplified via guitar and bass amplifiers and an effects pedalboard', we read in the liner notes, ambient sounds are introduced, human voices, snippets of songs, drones are repeated, and the bass and drums keep the pace going, with the raw sax sounding full of despair, alternated by an unexpected jubilating phrase. 

The music crackles, sputters, sizzles, rumbles, crashes, throbs, thumps, thuds, clunks, roars, clonks, drips, bursts and explodes. 

The atmosphere is unreal, relentless and magisterial. The effect is far beyond the familiar and incredibly coherent, as if the whole piece was conceived as a suite. Even the strange shifting melody of the title song create an eery intro to the deep industrial sound of distorted and mangled shreds of music. Despite the unfamiliar and almost hostile setting - it is a journey to an 'unlucky star' after all - the music is captivating from beginning to end. 

Purists will not like this, but again I can only invite them to give it a try, to go for the incredible sonic experience that Pedro Alves Sousa and his band have in store for us. 

The liner notes end with the cryptic "Even inside the shadows you can find hope", so not entirely doom. 


Listen and download from Bandcamp.