gos020 2006 (CD)

1. 33
2. 31
3. 32
4. 38
5. 52
6. 40
7. 37

Composed 2003-2006, Porto, by Miguel Carvalhais and Pedro Tudela.
Cover art by Júlio Dolbeth.

It’s not without irony, which is probably one of the most distinctive features of our generation creative skills, that the fourth @C’s installment is appropriately called Study. After all, it’s their first studio album.

@C’s members are laptop musicians or to be more precise laptop artists, and this is because more than often the output of their laptops is not restricted to sound. Laptop music, at least in its most interesting expression, seems to relate mainly to a sort of processual engagement. Again, a study of processes, an ongoing study or devoted investigation that may find its way all up to the very stage. Performing interesting laptop music is just another step in that ongoing process where research, chance, improvisation, and the endless tweaking of an immense flow of data are the very essence of creation and once again, study.

While their other releases developed from stage improvisations that later crystallized as a released recording (this obviously after a quick drop at the studio), Study, composed between 2003~2006, Porto, appears as an ongoing quasi-academic construction that seems to be going to make it the other way around.

Well, ironically, once again, a laptop musician studio is, most of the time, a laptop, and although probably more interconnected at the studio than at the stage (which of course also constitute different spaces and contexts), its core is still the very same laptop. And that studio, which as recording studio appears almost infinitely compressed both physically and economically (but still with a never ending array of possibilities), becomes an instrument more on stage.

In the liner notes of the album, one can find physical evidence of what is perhaps the central element in studio music production, sound files (not the instruments that generate them, because what’s inside a laptop is sometimes hard to grasp, and once again in contemporary music the definition of instrument can be very vague).

To each track, a corresponding number of sound files, probably as diverse as the time and the multiplicity of processes that every one bears. Certainly not all the designations are as descriptive as others, but nevertheless constitute an attempt to provide some sort of mapping to each of the tracks’ essence. What it says, its not only that the music contains a multiplicity of sound files and that each of them also probably contain even more and more files in an endless path to complexity. What it says is, with some irony, that this is a studio album, a study, and a study on the subject of sound, will certainly involve sound objects, and thats what these files are.

The artwork, a series of illustrations by Júlio Dolbeth, bear an informal touch that is an obvious result of its own ongoing research and brilliantly encapsulate the main concept and spirit of this album. The relaxed informality of the studio dynamic is captured with a blurred combination of looseness and precision. The cables work as a visible metaphor for the complexity of the composition process and its beauty, after all something not very far from the mental engagement that drawing implies, drawing being also the place for studies, sketches, mistakes, chance, a processual playground that can also be presented as closure.

Inside, in the actual record, one realizes that an @c studio album retains the same compelling freshness and vivid dynamics of their live acts. On every single track, and this probably due to that special mindset that the studio timeframe conveys, they manage to modulate with utmost elegance moments of abandoned contemplation with the most shearing and sonically engaging peaks of indeterminacy. The smooth swinging across the tracks is peppered with the intensity and surprise of a sonic roller coaster for the ear that even the casual computer music listener can enjoy.

The overall attention to every aspect of the composition is remarkable and the sonic richness of every slice of audio transforms every listening into a stunning experience of rediscovery and newness. It’s also interesting the way in which some sonic evidences of previous collaborations with other musicians, echo sparsely across the composition layers, working both as an almost nostalgic recollection of the audial past and a vivid feeling of stage improvisation-like artifacts.

Interesting music, as everything that is deemed to be deeply appreciated, demands a special engagement from the listener that certainly goes beyond a superficial relationship with the subject. However, this release seems to also favor that sort of less demanding approach, you can listen to this record on an almost daily basis, establishing deeper contact only when your mind is withdrawn to its exquisite sonic modulations, or you can dedicate your full attention span to every masterful detail of its intricate and luxurious composition, where not all is what it appears to be.

As said, this study spans from the last three years of public performances and studio reworking, if you’ve never caught them live, be sure to grab a sit on the next opportunity and prepare yourself to sonic delight, after all, the stage is the space and space is the place.

João Cruz