Príncipe’s latest signing breaks some new ground for the label. Whereas most of Lisbon’s African-Portuguese producers come from a single neighbourhood, Tia Maria Produções is rather more diverse. When founder Puto Márcio assembled the crew a couple of years back, he and his recruits lived on opposite sides of the river Tagus. These days, Márcio’s in Rennes, while DJ Lycox has relocated to Paris. This geographical distance hasn’t stopped the crew from developing a coherent sound. The Tá Tipo Já Não Vamos Morrer EP is mostly unified by its tunefulness. Other Lisbon producers collide samples to send dissonant sparks flying (or else let their percussion do the talking), but these guys revel in bold chords and upfront melodies.
For the most part, the vibe here is rather melancholy. In “7 Maravilhas (Damas Da Cor Do Pecado),” DJ Télio piles on the layers of bell-tones and smudged chords, softening the impact of that unmistakable lilting beat. “O Tempo Da Vida” translates roughly as “life’s time.” Its throbbing minor key chords suggest that Lycox takes a rather dim view of existence. B.Boy and Márcio’s “Hino Da Noite” is the most elegant of the lot, sporting a light-footed groove that bends and flexes in marvelously subtle ways. But Lycox’s “Underground” tops it in expressive urgency, its blaring horns and marimbas reaching almost Ruff Sqwad levels of sorrowful intensity.
While most of these tracks lope along somewhere close to house tempo, the EP is broken up by a couple of offerings in the much slower Tarraxinha style. B.Boy’s “Moh Cota” is the exception that proves the melodic rule, though its sampled shouts and weird alien bleeps don’t amount to all that much. Better is Márcio’s crew anthem “Tia Maria Da Vida.” At first the track sounds totally broken, its congas and MIDI wind instruments slouching disjointedly. Somewhere around the minute mark, though, things snap thrillingly into focus. Just when you think you’ve got the Príncipe lot pegged, they show you how wrong you were.