Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Nuno Canavarro - Untitled

Nuno Canavarro - "Untitled (#5)"

I'm not going to pretend that I did any heavy lifting in "discovering" this artist or his one and only album. By 2009, the legend of Nuno Canavarro has been well documented and picked over on the Internet by the electronic music cognoscenti and "beginners" alike, leaving little more to say about the man or his work. A fine review of Canavarro and his work was published by Mark Richardson in 2002 and remains the best starting point as well as what seems like the final word on the subject.

Even so, Plux Quba remains a difficult album to pin down. Its murky songpieces resisting any easy categorization, melodies fading into view and disappearing before you're even cognizant of their presence, lengthy passages of what essentially sounds like synthesizer noodling/dicking around, which is probably what the average Justice or even Aphex Twin fan* would probably think the entire album is.

Track #5 is my favorite piece on the album. It's untitled, along with seven of the other 14 tracks. That's kind of a shame not just for how it messes up my stats, but how it denies the track a sense of identity that it deserves. Then again, the titled songs on Plux Quba don't sound any more meaningful than an average Autechre tracklist, so what would be the point? As far as describing how it sounds, I'm at a loss for words that don't inadvertently paint it as knob-twiddling wankery. It's not musical in the usual sense, though certain motifs begin to emerge as it unravels over its four minutes or so, songbird-like melodies floating over some filtered, muffled voices echoing from what sounds like a distance away, reduced to sinister but subdued-sounding growls as gentle synth tones ebb and flow with the kind of rhythm of ocean waves rolling into shore. None of these elements were new to electronic music but Canavarro goes beyond the simple pleasures of new age or ambient music and builds some truly alien worlds out of them. Maybe walking through the woods with this on headphones last spring created some indelible impressions on me that won't translate to every listener, but this never fails to invoke a goofy sense of wonder in me whenever I hear it.

*I know that forcing these comparisons in order to prove my point is a lazy and misleading tactic and I'm trying to avoid it in speech, writing and thought, but you can't deny there are lots of dudes out there who still love "braindance" and think Richard D. James is "a total genius" who can do no wrong, but who'd rather listen to Squarepusher bass solos or the new Prodigy album than this.

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