Release Date: September 28, 2018
Come horns and trumpets, come echo and percussion. The descent into the
subterranean fields is easy. But to retrace your steps into heaven's air: There
is the trouble, there is the toil.
Beheaded Totem, the second album by the enigmatic Portuguese ensemble
HHY & The Macumbas, leads us straight into the damp caves of our minds.
Their 2014 debut Throat Permission Cut was described as “a massive
synapses bombardment in a short circuit between Glenn Branca and Adrian
Sherwood,” and yes: HHY & The Macumbas have continued their march into
the undiscover’d countries of psychoacoustics. Febrile, haunting and at times
overwhelming, Beheaded Totem is nothing short of a dream for the necro-
tourist. Cerebral and alluring. Toxic. Welcome to the four-dimensional
“Beheaded Totem continues a long investigation into percussion, circular
rhythms, dub strategies, and horns coming from the alcohol-fuelled
Portuguese marching bands,” says constructor and conductor in the world of
HHY & The Macumbas, Jonathan Uliel Saldanha. For those not familiar with
the Macumbas, they are a shifting musical entity. Built amid smoke and fiery
red lights, the performers on Beheaded Totem are: João Pais, Filipe Silva,
Frankão and Brendan Hemsworth on percussion, and Álvaro Almeida, André
Rocha and Rui Fernandes on horns. An Arkestra reaching not for the stars
but the boiling core under our feet.
This music stems from a deep connection with the streets of Porto and its
undertones, nights and drags,” Saldanha says. Emerging from SOOPA, an
art and music production unit based in the old harbour city, he has been a
leading force in the Portuguese experimental music scene since the early
2000s, through which he coined a signature “skull-cave echo.”
“It comes with a love for trance, otherness and sound pressure,” he explains.
Beheaded Totem is indeed a pulsating and physical album, revealing both an
ultimate pain and unbearable joy – a funereal ecstasy – as if everything might
collapse in on itself at any moment. The disruptive nature of the seven tracks
also hints at a free form. They are more evocations than songs, found in the
depths Saldanha reached for in the filmic and musical explorations of Tunnel
Vision (2016), made alongside director and musician Raz Mesinai. Recorded
in tunnels and cavities in and around the city of Porto, the sub-frequencies of
Tunnel Vision functioned as a panoramic documentation of the underground,
a “dub fiction,” as Mesinai put it. Add the Macumbas’ already famed live
capacities evoked on this album, and Beheaded Totem comes across as a
fear- less interpretation of sulphurous storms. Both meticulous and massive,
raw and ravishing, as if their minds are set on rewilding a hollow earth.
And as the nightly creatures prepare themselves to join HHY & The
Macumbas in a final Danse Macabre, they might realize what they’re in for: to
never find their way back to the corrosions of daylight. But, then again, some
sacrifices come with joy.
– Tore Engelsen Espedal, May 2018