The Lisbon trio return with a darker spin on the Príncipe sound.
In the meantime, the Príncipe sound has evolved along with its core roster of artists. Recent releases have developed a rich sense of atmosphere, new rhythmic offshoots and heavier emotional depth, underlined by a string of landmark 2020 releases from DJ Lycox, Nídia, Niagara and more that push past kuduro into something new. Now it's Blacksea Não Maya's turn. With Máquina de Vénus, they bring a melancholy, almost forlorn sensibility that the label has rarely seen before.
The title Máquina de Vénus is a reference to the planet of love, but also, the trio says, "love in the real world, which also brings pain that one has to endure in order to keep on loving." While there are no lyrics on the LP, hurt and pain seem to be the theme. Kolt, Perigoso and Noronha make the vibrant and boisterous sound of Príncipe feel sad much in the same way that Lycox's kizomba-influenced Kizas do Ly made it sound romantic.
Kolt dominates the record with six tracks, and his are the saddest. The record opens with "Terror," a droning, monochrome crawl where rhythm is almost an afterthought. Other tracks have overactive hand percussion patterns ("7Even"), menacing melodies ("Bubadagash") or atonal sound effects, like the sound of water bubbling on "Obscuro." And while Kolt might dominate the record, the other two shouldn't be dismissed: Perigroso's "Horizonte" is almost baroque, with deep cello notes and brittle sitar, while Noronha's "Estranhos e Loucous" boasts a jaunty groove peppered with vocal samples. Both tracks carry themselves with the kind of elegance that made this troupe a standout back in 2013.
Blacksea Não Maya spend most of Máquina de Vénus perfecting this darker, almost gothic tint on their sound. But it's the final track, Kolt's "Africanalidade," that hints where they might be going next—namely, some place other than Lisbon. This track is the odd one out, trading the album's moody inwardness for the hulking stomp of South African gqom. It's not pure gqom, but you couldn't mistake those groaning low notes, or the sharp syncopation for the rhythm, for any other genre. Príncipe has always been about joining traditions from across the Afro-Portuguese diaspora and melting them into each other. Máquina de Vénus follows in the footsteps of visionary artists like Nídia, presenting Príncipe's irresistible slink in a new context: dance floor music weighed down with a world-weary feeling.