Electronica without the electricity; Victor Gama's acoustic instruments get a workout...
Colin Buttimer 2003
"Pangeia Instrumentos are acoustic musical instruments, sound devices and installations designed and built as a process of experimentation with form, design, sound and music."
After listening to a lot of electronica recently the soundworld of Pangeia Instrumentos came as a welcome change, like stumbling upon an unexpected park in the centre of a noisy city. The acoustic resonances, the variety of attack and decay, the apparent guilelessness enchant from the first moment.
"A Guerra Dos Homens Repteis" (A War Of Reptile Men) sounds as though it's played on multiple mbiras (thumb pianos) whose sounding boards have been opened out in some way to provide a more resonant acoustic. The CD cover depicts a number of fascinating instruments but doesn't indicate which ones play on which tracks and it's difficult to get a sense of relative scale.
A visit to Gama's website provides a little more information on these unique instruments (bearing wonderful names like Southern Cross, Vibrant Rings, Tonal Matrix and Spiralphone), although still not enough to be satisfying. The aforementioned first track is composed of three sections joined by crossfades, each rhythmelody played on a different instrument. Throughout, notes fall like soft rain, warm, frequently cheerful and ultimately reviving.
"O Olho No Anzol" (The Eye On The Fishhook) has a different, more metallic resonance (like clockwork timepieces) until the busy rhythm settles into hesitant pauses interspersed with careful melodic forays. "Homem Vermelho/Homem Verde" (Red Men/Green Men) might be the shedding of a snake's skin or the rattling of its tale, the scurrying of wood beetles, the patient building of termite mounds.
"Caminhar A Pe Descalco?" (Walking Barefoot) is played with the exact sound of twanging rulers on desks. "O Pescador de Sonhos" (The Fisherman of Dreams) carries an air of patient timelessness borne slowly forward on a twisting, inexorable rhythm.
The presence of Gama's unique instruments might serve to detract attention away from the compositions themselves, but each piece has a strong melodic core supported by a variety of rhythmic approaches. Luis Moretto's alternately singing, keening, spiralling violin contributes on a number of tracks. There's also what sounds like an uncredited acoustic guitar on one track.
The methodical patterns of the acoustic instruments accumulate complexity through repetition and alteration. The strum and pause which initiate and close the penultimate track, "Mibanga", are perhaps the most captivating moments on a recording full of melodic and acoustic delights, suffused with timelessness and innocence. Highly recommended. (Thanks to Carlos for the translations).