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Lisbon’s Niagara are outliers on their hometown’s Príncipe Discos, a label that made its name with the kinetic rhythms of DJ Marfox, DJ Nigga Fox, and other artists taking Afro-Portuguese styles into the far future. The trio makes house music, more or less—but an odd, bumptious, off-the-cuff version that’s a long way from the genre’s current mainstream profile. Niagara apparently records its songs live, and it certainly sounds like it; they’re lively and lumpy in equal measure, banged out with gusto.
Where Marfox and his protégés twist wildly syncopated rhythms into mind-bending shapes, the bass line for Niagara’s “Abacaxi Limão” references different kinds of contortions, or, rather, Contortions. The fat, gnarled electric bass comes straight from the James Chance rulebook, and the flayed hi-hat groove suggests the same sort of mutant disco. But where too many ZE homages get tripped up by their devotion to a sound that was defined, in part, by its very refusal to be tied down, Niagara borrow mutant disco’s tropes and proceed to bend them to their own wishes. (The title “Abacaxi Limão” translates as “Pineapple Lemon”, by the way, but I detect notes of black pepper and Pop Rocks.)
A dubby guitar chord drifts beatifically in the background; a burst of feedback imitates an airplane engine; a conga rattles away, the percussionist’s relationship with strict timekeeping left strictly non-monogamous. Somewhere in all that din, there’s chirping that might be actual birds, or maybe just a machine that wants to be a bird. The electric bass stubbornly digs in its heels while everything else threatens to fly apart like a tool shed in a tornado.