Words by Bob Baker Fish
DJ Marfox’s first EP, 2011’s Eu Sei Quem Sou was a bolt out of the blue. It was also the label’s first release, and heralded the emergence of a new electronic sound that was distinctively Portuguese – rough and raw electrics, influenced by the frenetic rhythms of Angola. Marfox is something of legend within the scene, with many subsequent musicians taking on his fox moniker as a sign of respect. Listening to this first missive you can understand why. This was the sound of hope, expression and creativity in the outer suburbs of Lisbon, precisely at a time that the entire continent and particularly Portugal were in economic decline. This was something new, something progressive, something of their own.
The opening track of Chapa Quente, 2685 couldn’t be more different from its predecessor, it begins straight out of a club, all hifi rave sheen, 4/4 beats, handclaps, and it’s difficult not to freak out a little, and ponder what the intervening years and surge in popularity done to Marfox. But these thoughts dissipate as quickly as they arrive as he continues to layer the ingredients, the frenetic polyrhythmic hand percussion and a hyperactive flute helping the piece to evolve into an overwhelming, somewhat woozy and frenzied slab of inspired off kilter dance music. This is forward thinking club music. Make no mistake though, it’s still very much Marfox and it’s pedal to the metal, and with its humour and hat tipping to rave culture it demonstrates that Marfox’s focus has expanded outwards. Perhaps the title of the second track, the wonky reggae inflected ‘Unsound’, might give away how far his focus has shifted, referencing his time at the Polish festival. Yet this is not a bad thing, as there is no way that these two pieces and indeed the remainder of the EP could’ve come from any other artist in or outside Portugal. Marfox consumes reference points and integrates them into his own musical world like few others.
‘Cobra Preta’ (Black Snake) is another balls to the floor percussion workout, with an insistent whistle and repetitive vocal sample it’s pure dynamics that you can only imagine being grist for his live show. In fact the dancefloor seems to be very much a focus for Marfox, yet it’s his unique ability to seamlessly integrate the hand percussion or marimba samples, the wooden hits and rumbles with these clipped insistent and raw electronics that is entirely unique and unparalleled. The final piece, the stilted wooden ‘B 18’ seems like its locked in a groove yet it expands almost miraculously outwards and before long we’re back on the dancefloor, albeit with strange almost tribal ingredients. Yet this is the miracle of Marfox. His ability to shift time and space is unsurpassed. We knew he was one to watch in 2011, yet now it’s 2016 and I wouldn’t dare my eyes or ears away for a minute. Something important is happening.