In the abstract and sinister orchestral arrangements, in the lazy scratched haze of dragged strings, there’s an organic flow that matures as it ages, or at least as it’s newly discovered. It’s in the last decade’s output from Marianne Faithful, PJ Harvey, Nick Cave and almost everything Warren Ellis touches; a return to earth, to sparse natural soundscapes, as dry as they are cold and baron.
Ok, those examples may vary, but the direction they lean seems the same. And in that breath I add ‘About Land’; part dark folk, part dream pop, part Portuguese western. Part dusty, part lush and all landscape.
There are as many shadows as there are burnt-dirt plains and there’s drought or cool water here someplace. As we move through album in all its directions we feel both the heat and relief. It’s a slow glow, slow-going, for the most part a swagger that drip-feeds sweet sounds that nervously swirl, whip and wheeze.
‘Rosa dos Ventos’ plays tremolo strings against ranges of tight plucks and drones. It breeds whispering vocals and muted guitars in a hum-busy breath of suspension. It’s as slick in its free moving easy-rust grove as anything on Hugo Race’s ‘True Spirit’. ‘Ente o Céu e o Chão’ adds snake-like percussion as it brings in a new sweep of vocals. Now both her and his voices twist Portuguese vowels and phonetics into rough flowing structures. It doesn’t matter I don’t understand them, my ignorance don’t spoil the view.
While these tracks are natural extensions of each other, the next arrives purely on impulse. Imagine a chamber folk version of trip-hop and we touch on the fluidic ripples and falls of ‘Dust is A Cloudless Sky’. Clean polished swells move around us, rounded bass guitars run through brushed hats and snares, we swoon at speed close to ‘Dummy’. I think I’m imagining some absurd set of links between Mira Pardhela and late 90s Bristol-esque textures and sounds then I read through the press pack and presto! Amongst this global collection of poets, musicians, percussionists, producers, I spy a link straight back to UNKLE.
Elsewhere we touch limbs with warm electronics that add just their accents and flavours. There’s a soft swell of pads in ‘Mudança’, they’re barely on show in the detuned piano and the smooth moving vocals that sooth us. They creep in again, with a much clearer presence in the all-too-short ‘City of Good Light’; a slight of a track with a cute awkward lilt that jars between old-world and new.
There are times where we might linger too long, on a theme that feel’s just too familiar. ‘Ghosts of Rossio’ is flawlessly weepy and its niceness is entirely its downfall. ‘Eu Sou Neptuno’ has a reinforced bounce that makes me want to not smile out of spite. But where ever ‘About Land’ moves out and relaxes, where ever it’s most free and restless, that’s where we find the best parts of the album and where we become part of its movements.