“Up, Down, Charm, Strange, Top, Bottom” reviewed by Earlabs

Miguel Carvalhais and Pedro Tudela forge their revolutions in the studio and not the street. In their miniaturized, air-conditioned studio-space, a penumbra of field recordings and improvised recordings are shorn of their substance, and then placed in a reified orbit. The sounds, like objects in a realm devoid of gravity, float off in every which way, as though pursuing their own trajectory to infinity. Given this atomization, aggrandizement, and fantastic extrapolation of events, and the fact that time and again emphasis is given to the moment, isolated from past and future, little of anything endures long enough for any kind of reflection to crystalize and, as such, the works take place outside any sphere of representation.

At the same time, it wouldn’t be proper to say that the duo reject all of these things outright – they simply relativize them in larger whole of which they aren’t the first principle. There are sound structures, continuous sequences of events, hills and valleys, but they’re deconstructed, disjointed, and rewired to bear only the slightest traces of origin or reality. One would be tempted to label it schizophrenic if it didn’t all sound so strangely logical. Heart cells may be producing liver cells here, but it’s happening everywhere and with such precision and consideration that a different sort of order is eventually discernible. So, yes, it’s wonderfully warped, as though its sounds were let loose like lights down a hall of distorting mirrors, yet the pair aren’t dabbling in different genres or styles; they demonstrate an impressive understanding and command of sonic detail, and they often sound spurred on by a personal daemon.

“72” reminds of the tautest of thrillers: brimful of tiny quivers, evanescent shivers and sudden shifts of digital space while some of their other strange and imaginative other tape compositions are visionary, uncanny or whimsical as the mood takes them. As an exercise – and exorcism – of musique concrete this effort more than makes the grade, not in least part because of its curious genesis and the challenges that its execution must have posed.

Max Schaefer

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