FIELD NOTES: SUN KIL MOON @ CASA DA MÚSICA

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Originally published in Portuguese on VICE Portugal

It’s half past nine of a dismal morning and I’m on my way to Oporto with two fellows. It has passed a couple of weeks since we wordily vowed on the trip, booked a hostel at the Invicta city and patiently awaited the day to hit the road. By the time we embarked, the gang was psyched: going on a trip, rolling in the northern capital, diggin’ the flea markets and cease the journey with a Mark Kozelek aka Sun Kil Moon‘s concert at Casa da Música, inserted in Optimus Clubbing fest. On our way we spin Eminem, N.W.A, Bon Iver and a miriade of musics of dysfunctional genres among them, as the everyone was eager to share everything they brought. But my mental inner-record needle is stuck since yesterday and the only thing I’m able to repeat in silence is: “Richard Ramirez died today of natural causes / These things mark time and make us pause.

The verse comes from “Richard Ramirez Died Today of Natural Causes”, the first Kozelek’s song I’ve heard, which is in Sun Kil Moon’s most recent album, Benji, released in March by Caldo Verde. The reverberation of the voice and the dazzle of a story of various truthful events through a folk spoken with a constancy similar to a rap song (it seems paradoxal, but listen to it and you’ll get it) is something I’ve never heard. From there I promised myself to see a Kozelek’s concert as soon as he landed back in Portugal, even knowing that mellow folk doesn’t attract me. I jumped for the unknown, this time at Oporto, one of my favourite cities in Portugal, which made the trip a win-win situation.

Arriving at Casa da Música by eleven in the evening and while the elevator took us to the concert hall floor, I hear the first chords of the night. It was “Black Kite”, a minimalistic acoustic from Among the Leaves‘ album. When we finally thrusted the large wooden doors, the darken room with few yellowish and blue spotlights on stage, crowded and ecstatic on Kozelek applauds vigorously the opening song. “How y’all doing?”, asks Ohio’s musician. We are fine and ready to live what’s next, without forgetting Richard Ramirez.

I sit five rows above the stage on the exact moment the guitar releases “Carissa”, from Benji, a soft toned riff followed by a vocal living and entrenched on the lyrics, sometimes in a more dragged tonality, otherwise more wide and cried out just as if one got released from the prison. On stage, Kozelek gets in trance and we follow him through his stories about death and the love for the neighbour. We actually live them, there, with him. 

Next comes “I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love” as now Kozelek loosens his vocal cords and grasps onto the message; and “Truck Driver”, living out of a single chord, as a paint with only a colour. And then comes “Dogs”, meaning Kozelek on his first passions and the audience heeling thrilled with the humorous oscillations of his voice – more expansive when recalling “first times” and darker as he faces the end of those experiences and senses. “I Watched the Film the Song Remains the Same” and “Micheline”, with Kozelek fused with the guitar he fiddles fervently as the crowd is tuned, precede the most waited and indeed the most cheered song: “Richard Ramirez Died Today of Natural Causes”. Truthfully, I’m not being tendentious by the fact that it is, by far, the best song I’ve heard this whole year.

The live version is more vivid and rocky – kudos for Vasco Espinheira, Blind Zero‘s guitarist whom is with the European tour of Sun Kil Moon, for the electric sound that surrounded the music, and for Chris Connely on keyboard, giving a more profound and obscure sense to a song that lives from the succession of deaths and events tangled in a storytelling that is told without a fake melancholia, but rather with a “facing the inevitability” stance.

Before ending the concert the catchy, faster and labouring folk of “I Love My Dad”, Kozelek makes a turn on “By the Time I Awoke” and “Ceiling Gazing”, of Perils from the Sea, an album he produced last year with Jimmy LaValle and which is more synthesised, dreamy and clavier. As the show comes to an end, the audience is still enclosed in the teeter of Kozelek’s stories, revealed with the same energy they were lived and now shared at a city that has too much to tell on life, death and what’s next. After a concert that hardly would be better, we left the room and Casa da Música through a glowing set of stairs outside the building. Oporto’s night guides us and we tell her loudly: “Richard Ramirez died today of natural causes / These things mark time and make us pause.”

NOTES: “7 DAYS OF FUNK” BY DÃM-FUNK & SNOOPZILLA

Originally published in Portuguese on VICE Portugal

Snoop Dogg became a paradox. Dogg began by inscribing his name in the 1990s hip-hop history with pearls like Doggystyle (1993) and Tha Doggfather (1996) and ended up collaborating with Katy Perry and his nephew David Carreira [pop singer from Portugal]. If throughout the years Dogg lost his qualitative vein and unpredictability, he ended up becoming a joke with such pop-sprinkled collabs.No matter what he’d do next, there would be a huge question mark trailed to his name, which suffered many mutations: Snoop Doggy Dogg, Snoop Dogg, Snoop Lion, Snoopzilla.

Then comes 7 Days of Funk, a collaboration between Snoop Dogg and of the most hypes artists of funk’s new school: Dãm-Funk. Now this is the point when USA’s West Coast rapper shows all he’s strength e proves (even without needing it) that he has everything to be a giant in the funkadelic scene. On the other end, Dãm-Funk remains as we know him: a virtuous synth-keys’ player with cosmic sonorities, rove electronics and stale beats.

7 Days of Funk is a long funky night with the boys in a club swarmed with marijuana, honeys and telepathic flirts. The “boys in da house” alert comes with the opening “Hit Da Pavement”  (“Niggaz hit the pavement, real true statement / Grind ’til they pay me, real niggaz hit the pavement”). In “Fadden Away”, Snoop Dogg reveals his uncompromised flow with an astonishing dusky key sound; in “Do My Thang” we head back to Snoop Dogg’s renowned cliche, but now under Dãm-Funk’s cosmic keys.  The whole album has a consistent rhythm without mood and style swings, using the same line of sound within its tracks but never exhausting.

Dãm-Funk and Snoopzilla shoot without missing by opting for a 30 minutes productions on an album named for a week of funk. 7 Days of Funk entered directly to one of the best of 2013′s list right by the end of the year. Besides, I strongly believe that Snopp Dogg protrudes greatly at funk as his does dropping 16 bars.

Release Date: December 2013 | Label: Stones Throw

NOTES: “PLUNGE INTO DARKNESS” BY SHCURO

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Originally published in Portuguese on VICE Portugal

The way Shcuro showcases his music has been through some fast mutation over the last couple of years. The producer from Lisbon, Portugal, went through a road of dub rhythms with his Distant Shore EP (2012) and the Rastronaut’s Legba (2013) remix, deviated for the interior of tech-house – Ignis Fatuus (2013) and JYGB’s Sun Soaked / Money (2013) remix – and turned sharply, without any tragedies within, in 2014 with the acidic techno EP Plunge Into Darkness.

Considering his stylistics shifts, Shcuro has a consistent identity and versatility. He whom also produced an astonishing sound forA.M.O.R’s experimental LP, and keeping with Honey the project ERVADOCE. Among all his music, there’s always a grey and deeply dark touch, from either a more assertive knob or a simple presence hidden throughout the more audible tones. “Plunge Into Darkness” is Shcuro releasing the murk that always roamed his spirit, with full-rotation beats, beefy industrial sounds and screaming synths. A throughly acidic trip for a night ending in an emotional debacle. “Agremi Somnia” keeps the industrial roots, the aesthetic deepness and borrows from trance the verve of piercing synthesisers.

Plunge Into Darkness doesn’t even sin for having just 15 minutes of running time, as it seems to be an eternity, given that we jump inside an endless dark pit. The expectation is that Shcuro remains in the genre, as he seems just right for it.

Release Date: January 2014 | Label: Con+ainer

LUNCHING WITH JUSTLIKEBB

The bodyboarding session was bleak as the tide was coming up. Which means it was Monty Python’s fun in the water: jerking around small waves and pulling some pushups on the rocks (this one goes for Francisco ‘Cisco’ Monteiro). The waves were scarce, the sea was crystal clear, the water bounced like olive oil and small clusters of riders gathered in a chit-chat, like if they were all taking a long tea and biscuits together. I got to stay with justlikebb’s gipsies António ‘bòdecas’ Saraiva and Cisco. A quick sum-up about our lately doings and we found ourselves rumbling on the health of Portuguese bodyboarding. 

There is no story here: as Vert - the only bodyboarding magazine in the country - basically died, the riders lost probably the best promotional vehicle for their features. People might say Facebook is a good replacement, but Zuckerberg’s baby is ephemeral and doesn’t convey the same prestige as a world class magazine. Another symptom of this single-man-stance arose from a story Cisco told me: this one time, during a world championship stage in Sintra, a prominent rider from Peniche grumbled with Vert’s director because there were no photos of Peniche’s guys in the magazine. The example of the unceasing bodyboarder’s self-indulgence profiling pretty well Portugal’s bodyboarding world way of acting.

In between the brainstorm, we bitched about the crowd at the peak and forecasted tomorrow’s surf. It should definitely be better. Back into discussion, I recalled how bodyboarding became so individualistic. Riders go to Facebook (once again) to nurture their egos instead of taking a global, friendship stance towards the sports. Later on, during a quick lunch at Pão da Vila, Ericeira, and while ingesting a diabetic cocktail of “Bola de Berlim” and “Azevia”, Cisco highlighted the fact that, “You can see a guy launching a massive backflip, but you’ll never praise him, you’ll envy instead of support”. I counter argued about the “death” of the sport with the fact that the industry is small and there’s too many brands for so little people. This indeed was proven this week with the appearance of a new fins brand, Supers. They are just the same shit as Stealth and the old, but goodie, Churchill Makapuu, so their usefulness for the sake of the sport is equal to none.

Justlikebb is a crew of bodyboarders, party goers and creative dudes. I’ve always perceived them as a chilled gang who banged the most out of waves with a grudging style and a unique sense of amusement for life. In or out of water, they just play fun with every situation leaving aside any taste for embarrassment.

The guys just released a film, “Gypsy, The Movie”, which was produced with a laptop that would break ‘n die every 10 minutes. They’ve got no revenue from it, just pure fun and the desire to share their mad adventures with the community. Manuel Barbosa, the producer, was also at the beach gathering some footage for some clips to be released soon. He stressed about the difficulties to yield the film and how it gathered little more than a few Facebook shares. “We’ve sent an e-mail pretty well made to several magazines and people and they just shared the film on Facebook instead of doing something more.”

"Gypsy" was an experience, a first attempt at something fresh. It might have a sequel, but it will take its time. Grabbing onto a soup and baguette, Manuel Barbosa was stark, "I’ll only start working on something else when I’m sure that I really have something good to work on."

As time went by, the crew started reviewing the day’s footage. Right before leaving the coffee shop, Manuel Barbosa was unsettled about getting some pastry. “I will feel naughty about it afterwards.” He eventually got a Pastel de Nata. Cisco cogitated on his chair listening to LeAnn Rimes’ “Can’t Fight the Moonlight” and bòdecas would just clinch to the camera. Outside we just traded the final arguments for tomorrow’s sesh. They went back home, only stopping before to get some grilled chicken.

Website: Justlikebb

NOTES: “GOVERNMENT PLATES” BY DEATH GRIPS

Originally published in Portuguese on VICE Portugal

A glass pops and shatters. It’s followed by a sharp, lugged, monochromatic sound, which penetrates the eardrums and pursues a paranoid, distressing and prophetic scream. An electrifying synthesiser that crosses the bones yanks out and the agony proceeds, always in the dark. The intro of Government PlatesDeath Grips’ latest album, unveils a loosen straitjacket schizophrenia in a scabrous mental solitary confinement.

Stefan Burnett aka MC Ride, the lead singer, remains truthful to his thing: psychopath (“Pressin down the pillow ‘til I can’t hear yo breath, for no reason”), violent, frenzied and nihilist. The difference is that he’s closed in on itself. If in No Love Deep Web – their first release under their own label, Third Worlds – the synths were clearer and Stefan Burnett pulled the audience to his inner world,Government Plates rolls in a cloistered rhythm and this rapper seems to be as fucked as ever. In every beat and synth punch there’s a demented struggle to release himself from the system that sucked him in (“Government plates / On location / I’m a corporation / Fuck location”) and from the demons corroding him and from which he releases himself through drugs. (“Can’t wait to fuck my brain. All I need to forget is today”). Burnett isolated himself in an inner battle that corrupts him and he’s exposing it to the world.

The smothering drums and the experimental keys of Death Grips follow their own natural gene, although there are purgatory moments in Government Plates, where neither the sound is as psychedelic or clairvoyant. But it is an album that always steers in line with a inherent heady darkness for a hardcore hip-hop.

Release Date: November 2013 | Label: Third Worlds | Official Download: Click Here

LIQUID CHOICE: UNCOMPROMISED PRINTS

Gonçalo ‘Xixa’ Pimenta is a perfectionist. The Portuguese bodyboarder and designer from Ericeira is embracing the art of crafting clothes, from knitting to designing, so he can control the whole creative process of his independent brand.

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