The Lisbon artist's shadow self directs a seductive take on batida.
The set begins with a fanfare—the obnoxious parp of a sampled trumpet is spliced into a 45-second intro fit for a returning hero. But this bombastic beginning is a red herring. Next, we're plunged into the shuddering electrical groove of "Sub Zero" and a deeper, darker side of Brandão's creativity. It's as if he's letting his shadow self dictate the mood and motion.
"Nhama," for instance, is alive with the kind of curious detail we've come to expect from him. A fragment of human voice saying "wub" at various pitches, and clacking, woody percussion pulled right out of John Cage's prepared piano. But the sounds don't ignite and explode in the usual, upfront style—they smoulder from below.
These tracks occasionally feel more attuned to a house or techno dance floor, too, with "Faz A Minha" borrowing the luxurious piano chords and steady pulse of deep house to excellent effect. It's a gesture that echoes labelmate DJ Lycox's underrated 2017 album Sonhos & Pesadelos, which grafted the explosive energy of batida onto more stable grooves. It opened up the sound to more, let's say, traditional dance floors.
Not that there's anything remotely stable going on across Cartas Na Manga. "Vicio" sounds like a burglar alarm gone sentient, a relentless squawking that gets sliced and diced over hiccuping drums. Then there's "Água Morna," which flies off on a totally different tangent, hearing batida through the smoky, psychedelic fog of Bitches Brew-era Miles Davis, gloopy organs and soft pipes wafting through a rocky terrain.
As "5 Violinos" sees us out with a spooky serenade, replete with heavily processed vocal incantation, it's obvious that Cartas Na Manga—despite being referred to as a double pack rather than an album—has been carefully thought out. Rather than capturing the restless exuberance that has made Brandão a leading light of his scene, the record hints at another side to his character—and plentiful new directions for batida. Cartas Na Manga, it's worth noting, means "cards up the sleeve." There must be more magic to come.