Just before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down much of the world in early March 2020, electronics artist/composer, Carlos Santos brought together reed player (José) Bruno Parrinha and dual-electric guitarist Abdul Moimême for A Silent Play in the Shadow of Power. The three Lisbon based artists often work within the same cohort of adventurous Portuguese musicians and are a perceptively attuned group. They recorded this album at the Small Formats Materials Festival in their home city.
The compelling album title comes from a line in the song "Guerrilla Radio" by Rage Against the Machine. There is an air of mystery to the single title track of the album. The source of some sounds is unclear, as they fall into an unexplained category of "object" instruments. Parrinha's alto sax and bass clarinet are understated and hauntingly melodic. Moimême's customized guitars often present themselves as something entirely foreign as on his solo project Exosphere (Creative Sources Recordings, 2017). But on A Silent Play in the Shadow of Power, we occasionally hear the guitars' more natural voice. Santos' instrumental contribution is harder to distinguish, given the multitude of electronic components. But his expertise with synthesizers, software, and wide-open spaces, leaves no doubt about the critical nature of his role.
This improvised work is impressive in its scope. The trio interlaces aural lines that sound unexpectedly natural. Very much a collective work, the music strikes a balance between unassuming and dramatic. Darkly textured, Santos, Moimême, and Parrinha create an extraordinary soundscape across the strange and familiar terrain. There is no sense of finality to A Silent Play in the Shadow of Power but rather an undeniable and eccentric beauty that invites the listener to take another look.
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