Since 2006 the Portugese duo of Marta Ângela and João Artur (CALHAU!) have been quietly labouring away on their wonderfully tilted practice, embracing music, text, film, and visual arts on a path that has included performances, exhibition projects and several artistic residencies.
For this new release on Takuroku they take influence from medieval Galician-Portuguese songs/poetry of insult and mockery called cantigas d'escarnio e maldizert. A carnivalesque sense of play, pathos and absurdity haunts the 33 minutes run time as they shift between sung and spoken incantations, baroque organ dirges, junk-yard musique concrete, layers of tape mush and sonic trickery.
Although medievil in theme, there is a particular timelessness to proceedings. One of the main instruments CALHAU lists is "the ghosts of an old cassette re-recorded thousand times during the last 20 years" - with sounds fermented and rendered into beguiling forms. Another is "a crappy electric organ from 1980 called ORION", which dispels both baroque and twisted sonics from its tired engine.
When first listening to this it instantly brought to mind the late Ghédalia Tazartès, who sadly passed away this year. Similar to Ghédalia's work this is ageless, contradictory, old, new, sad, strange and often hilarious music. Music that fearlessly reveals its multiple facets to slowly unfurl its twisted, tender core.
CALHAU are Marta Ângela and João Artur
Mastered by Oliver Barrett
A true gem from the Portugese underground. Sparse electronics blended with mystic vocal-ism — think Ghédalia Tazartes on the coffee by Diamanda Galás.
Deep in the Portugese underground Calhau! is con-structing an absurd universe in which nightmares, rural Catholic mysticism and surrealist spirituality play the lead role. Performance, movie and music are contributing to one melancholic and cruel whole. The music is deeply rooted in Roman mysticism, using the dark hand of alchemy to beseech the insane 21st century.
The duo sounds like an updated verion of Ghédalia Tazartes and Throbbing Gristle, blending tape collages and sparse electronics, not unlike the PAN back catalogue.
Foremost, Calhau! are their own isle, at the point where the Old Europe disappears in the sea.