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João Hasselberg & Pedro Branco: Dancing Our Way To Death

Mark Sullivan By

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Portuguese bassist João Hasselberg and guitarist Pedro Branco both hail from Lisbon, but are currently living and studying elsewhere—Hasselberg in Copenhagen, Branco in Amsterdam. They each contribute compositions to this co-led project, as well as play the core instrumental tracks, aided by additional players and vocalists. First, it must be said that the music is not nearly as bleak as the album title implies. It's contemplative and sometimes atmospheric—so there's not much dancing, but there's not much death either.

Branco's "I Think I Love You" opens the set with guitar atmospherics, moving into an Americana-flavored theme—think Bill Frisell or Jakob Bro—with Hasselberg's bass and textural drumming by Joao Lencastre. Hasselberg's "Miniature #1 For Our Countryside Life" continues in the same vein, demonstrating the unity in their compositional approach. It's also no more miniature than the other tracks, which mostly range from two to four minutes long. "Eyes From Above" is the only song with lyrics, sweetly sung by co-lyricist Afonso Cabral.

"The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter" is Hasselberg's guitar feature for Branco, accompanied by his bass and additional guitar by Afonso Pais . "Lisboa" is an acoustic finger-style piece, with bass and vocalise (presumably by composer Branco). "Far Far Away" introduces João Paulo Esteves da Silva's piano and Elina Silova's vocals: their lyrical duet is eventually joined by the bass, at first pizzicato, then going into an unsettling atmospheric arco, all ghostly textural sounds. "Although You're Going, Nobody Wants You There" has a kind of spaghetti Western vibe: electric guitar with tremolo, bass, and eerie whistling from Hasselberg.

Hard to characterize this music: call it contemporary chamber jazz, for lack of a more precise description. But it establishes a definite atmosphere, with at least as much folk and rock coloring as jazz.

Track Listing: I Think I Love You; Miniature #1 For Our Countryside Life; Eyes From Above; The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter; Lisboa; Born In Captivity; Far Far Away; Norman Is The Name Of My Girlfriend's Imaginary Dog; Although You're Going, Nobody Wants You There; Miniature #2 For Calvin & Hobbes's Saturday Mornings.

Personnel: Afonso Cabral: vocals; Elina Silova: vocals; Afonso Pais: guitar; João Paulo Esteves da Silva: piano; Pedro Branco: guitar, vocals; João Hasselberg: bass, vocals, shaker, whistle; João Lencastre: drums.

Title: Dancing Our Way To Death | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Self Produced


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