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CD Feature/ :papercutz: "Lylac"

img  Tobias

Some people are telling Bruno Miguel to turn even more towards Pop, others are recommending a purely classical approach to him. It is indeed easy to see why someone could get confused over an album like „Lylac“: Released on a label mainly dealing with Electronica, it prominently features instruments like, among others, Acoustic Guitar, Xylophone, Piano and Melodica. Oscillating between Miguel's Portugues mother-tongue and the English language, one-minute miniatures and minutely thought-through electroaoustic tunes as well as vocal tracks and instrumentals, it opens up a highly private cosmos occupying a space outside of musicological discussions and agreed-upon historical canons.

If this were all there's to it, of course, one could quickly file away „Lylac“ with all of the myriads of home-produced, proprietary records which always seem slightly more interested in self-therapy than communication. The good thing, however, is that it is not the work of a whimsical maverick, but of an ambitious young composer with his ears on the 21st century, his feet firmly on the ground and his heart tuned to a universal frequency. It is also an upbeat album unashamed of letting the sun in and injecting some positive vibes into its audience.

While other acts may already have found their own little niche with their first record and will subsequently concentrate on microscopically refining their style over the remains of their career, you can clearly sense that Miguel hasn't reached the end of the line on his debut full-length, that his vocabulary is still capable of growing. So is :papercutz, which has gone from a pure one-man studio project to a fully-fledged live band composed of Singer Melissa Veras and Francisco Bernardo. The latter's eclectic instrumental talents do not as yet feature here, but should come to further enrich the already colourful arrangements over the next couple of months. For „Lylac“, even more artists have been cast in both supporting and leading parts, including a slew of spoken word  contributors and field recorders. In terms of album-building, therefore, the challenge was never to come up with enough ideas and inspiration, but, quite on the contrary, to prevent the work from bulging out in too many directions at the same time and from exploding in a bright but short-lived supernova of creative energy.

To understand the full scale of the dilemma, it is interesting to impart a couple of observations about Bruno Miguel. Having absorbed the internationally under-represented musical heritage of his Portuguese homeland, the compositional traditions and grandiose proportions of 19th and 20th century romanticism, the sensual beats and lively electronic culture of Porto and the delicate particle-sculpting of Sound Art alike, his artistic position is by default blurred by a dense brushwood of influences, aesthetics and ideals – making him a multiple-insider rather than a stereotypical outsider. His performance on „Lylac“, is both that of a trained instrumentalist on the one hand (especially with regards to the impressionist Piano passages) and that of a self-taught or even completely intuitive musician on the other. As someone who highly esteems the oeuvre of Philip Glass, he might just as well be writing pieces for chambermusical ensembles and you can, for example, hear the famous minimalist's principle of pulsation shining through in the adorning sequencer lines of the title track. The delicate Marimba patterns on „a way to emerge“, meanwhile, reveal a thorough understanding of the power of timbre and a talent of combining seemingly confrontational rhythmic parts.

The trouble with being 'conceptual', though, is that concepts can start to dictate the course of the music instead of the other way round. Which is why it was a wise decision of Miguel to drop them straight away in favour of an approach guided by emotional factors. If there is talk about this being a soul-searching affair dealing with „questions of being“ at all, then that is merely because, underneath a blanketing cover of refined grooves and harmonies, „Lylac“ offers curious listeners plenty of points of departure for deeper appreciation: The dividing line between song and track has liquefied and so have divisions between verse and chorus, mechanical repetition and minute variation, for- and background and the relative importance of vocal and instrumental sections. „do outro lado do espelho“ opens as a brittle Guitar-fantasy and drifts off into a sweet ambient dream at the end. First single „ultravioletta“ (almost secretively tucked away at the end of the album) still impresses with its combination of robotic mechanics and undiluted songwriting and the hypnotic Piano loop of „broken treasure“ is gradually replaced by playful and increasingly bubbly Synthesizer lines.

So what is more important on „Lylac“ - contagious Pop ambiances or pensive Classical aspects? If one were forced for an answer, probably the former: There's a striking immediacy to tunes such as „a secret search“ or the romp-shaking „Lost Boys“ and it doesn't take a lot of spins for the album to develop an irresistible catchyness.  And still it can not be denied that the opening half of the album, when short yet thematically self-sufficient interludes are taking turns with straight-forward songs, is leading the listener away from mere superficial enjoyment and into a world where profundity and pleasure are no longer each other's opposites. In the process of accommodating all of his different influences, Bruno Miguel has created a work which doesn't show off with its diversity but instead presents a whole new vision of what antiquated terms like „Pop“, „Electronica“ and „Contemporary Composition“ might mean in the 21st century. It might be a good idea to ask for other people' s advice at times. But in this case, the best recommendations for Miguel about the future direction of :papercutz is probably to follow his own instincts.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: :papercutz
Homepage: :papercutz at MySpace
Homepage: Apegenine Records

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