Carlos Bica, like Carlos Barretto, is a Portuguese bassist and bandleader—and hey, guitarist Mario Delgado is on this album, too! But it’s in no way a rehash of Labirintos. This is a drifting, cinematic album that even includes a version of Ry Cooder’s theme from the movie Paris, Texas. In addition to Bica and Delgado, the band features João Paulo on piano, keyboards and accordion; João Lobo on drums; and one non-Portuguese player, Berlin-based Matthias Schriefl, on trumpet, flugelhorn and melodica. There’s a terrific moment on “Bela Senão Sem” when Schriefl switches rapidly between muted and open horn, effectively dialoguing with himself in short, pithy phrases.
The opening track, “D.C.,” is a slow-walking blues with an undercurrent of aggression that’s reminiscent of the band—Miles Davis, John Lee Hooker, Taj Mahal and others—assembled for the soundtrack to the 1990 movie The Hot Spot. “Believer,” which is driven by a throbbing, ultra-repetitive bass line from Bica and restrained, Meldhau-ian piano, atop which Schriefl plays bittersweet, muted lines, recalls Davis’s 1987 soundtrack to Siesta, minus the somewhat dated electronics. On “For Malena,” the trumpeter growls and even sputter-sings through the horn, while the band creates a stinging guitar-and-organ groove that bears the same relationship to Latin music that Tom Waits’ “Jockey Full of Bourbon” did—a hammering semi-rhumba that’s as noisy as it is lush. No surprise, since it’s a Marc Ribot composition, from his 2008 album Party Intellectuals; Ribot played guitar on “Jockey.”
Blues, movie soundtracks, slow-simmering ballads, and occasional Waits-ian side trips into jagged noise—these are the component parts of Matéria-Prima, and they all work together to create an immersive but never entirely soothing sonic journey. The audience applauds enthusiastically after each track, and sometimes after solos, but it’s a safe bet they were caught by surprise a few times along the way, too.
1. Do I foresee myself listening to this record again? Yes.
2. Should you buy this record? Yes.
Link to purchase, if you’re so inclined…