Memento is an essay on death and the afterlife. It’s a 7-track album of carnaval songs for ghosts - an empty place beyond time where things simply are. Elements of spirituality and faith blend with a lucid and macabre soundscape. Tracks were composed with code, sounding random at times, and nearly all instruments were performed by ghosts, in the deepest darkness of the 2020 quarantine lockdown.
Equally spiritual and lit, the album explores an intersection of contemporary, algorithmic, traditional brazilian and latin-american music, stepping towards an identity in the context of generative music. From the most tender longing to the most terrorizing fun, Memento occupies a unique non-space, whose haunted spell will forever exist.
You can hear it on spotify, soundcloud and audius as well.
This album is special to me for a number of reasons:
- It’s my first release featuring vocals (something I’m historically insecure of)
- It’s my first release with digital equipment (various musical approaches happened in the production process!)
- Some very special people joined in during the process, and I’m amazingly thankful to them
- Jota Dale: Brilliant producer who mastered the album (thanks a lot man ❤)
- VV Morais: The magic behing the visual aesthetics of the disc. Her work is amazing and I’ll never cease to pitch it
- Torto Disco: The experimental music label who signed this release. They helped a lot promoting the album and did an amazing design work on its physical versions.
Out of 12 original ideas, 7 made it to the final cut. Their names reflect the conceptual ambivalence of the album, mostly being wordplay of colloquial terms and objects or ideas that somehow refer to the afterlife, in portuguese. I’m very inspired by Nik Bärtsch, and his idea of Zen Funk - I feel like this reflects a bit in the more meditative moments of the album. I wish to move further in this direction, while also drawing from the rich rhythmical qualities of the traditional music from the culture I was born into.
It was hard to choose an opening track: from the list, Além felt like it best represented the album, in its excentricity, contemplation and energy. I love how the track opens up, it really feels like a setup to something bigger. In portuguese, além means beyond, and is used in the expression do além, meaning out of the blue.
Chama is a bregafunk track, a somewhat recent and very popular party rhythm - it borrows from the original aesthetic in elements like the bassline and the bleeping synth lead. It was a composition experiment: starting from a single note being constantly played by the same voice (in this case, the lead), and minimizing its dullness by changing the context around it - in fact, this note never changes. I really like to start a track from a well-known aesthetic and gradually layer elements from very distant places over it - in my previous release, the same thing was done to Relics. In this case, the song is layered with gloomy background drones, an alrogithmic synth solo, distortion and laughter. Finally, chama means flame, but is also a slang with similar meaning to turn up.
Sino means bell, a frequent item in religious rituals, including funerals, and a sound used throughout the track. The lightness of the track is intentional as a contrasting relief to the ending of the prior. One could interpret this as death, a transition between planes: from the suffering usually associated with the end of earthly life to a great unknown which is up to the listener’s imagination.
This is a long and meditative track. Estase, or stasis, is the complete absence of movement or physical activity - a reference to the practice of meditation but also a reflection on the concept of non-existence. Despite the constant groove build-up, the track opens up with vocal growls and screeches to create an atmosphere of terror / suspense.
Vazio (void) is the first track of the album with lyrics: a short verse about existing in the void - a fantasy about how afterlife could feel. Without the concept of time, no memories can be created as we understand it, therefore one is sentenced to live the same story in an eternal moment. Personally, this fantasy also manifests a frustration on the general lack of visible progress in life, career and society as a musician of my current position and context (a few people have made this same remark). The verse goes: “Forever shall I stay here, living my story again and again. As it happened, it was really nothing much, and now all that remains is memory”.
For me, the static, slow, repetitive chord progression of Foste reflects a very clear sentiment of longing. This is important for the narrative of the album: my hope is that to understand, imagine or anticipate the pain of longing for something no longer present helps us better enjoy the present moment. To add to its solemn vibe and concept, it’s the only track that uses an organic, warm sound - in this case, a guitar. Foste is a formal second-person conjugation of the verb to go. Despite the sorrow that its meaning evokes, the expression is so unusual for everyday speech it’s almost hillarious - something like “Thou hath gone”. There actually is a hidden joke here: the drums are a pitched-down edition of the Amen Break. Here, once again, an aesthetic element is used in a completely different context than it was originally “designed” to, or has been used in the past.
“What would you tell your living self if you were dead?”
Death is a very dark theme that tends to make us unconfortable, vulnerable and scared, and I don’t want a listener (myself included) to leave the album feeling sunk in this gloom - especially for an album that opens up with such high energy. To bring a positive note to the album, Bote (boat) conceptually answers the previous track, bringing focus back to the present moment. The lyrics are a fictional monologue from an afterlife being with direcions on how to live. “Live for those of us who can live no more. We wait for your on the other side.”
The choice of rhythm is also part of this: Axé (Asé) is an ancient, sacred Yoruba word for strength or will to live - somewhat similar in concept to the japanese Ki (気). It is also the name of the brazilian rhythm that celebrates the will to live and the strength lent to us by higher beings named Orixás (Òrisàs), and atop which the track is built. The track name refers to Charon’s boat, which crosses the Styx river onto the afterlife. It also implies that life follows a course, like a river, and that we must find the strength to row it along. Finally, it’s also the imperative form of put, as in the expression “Botar fé”, meaning “to have faith”.
The cover was an experimental result obtained during the promo photoshoot for the album. We fell in love instantly with how the result communicates with the album sound identity, and amazingly, that picture has little to no edition.
Making this album felt very different compared to my previous material, and I feel this is a good time to reflect on this.
Overall the album was very quick to compose and to get to the end - in total, sligly less than a year from inception to release. The timbres were greatly improved in comparison to my previous work, and the sound quality was also way beyond what I’d released before, thanks in great part to the mastering process provided by Jota. The use of an ambience sample pack (Underground Sounds) to tie the album together also greatly helped in providing a sense of unity and sound coherence to the album.
I didn’t really enjoy the recording quality of my vocals: I recorded in flat hallway with a cheap mic, and it shows. The album also came out shorter than expected, and it’s something I have to take into account in the future. Finally, there’s only so much control I can have over transitions when live-coding. Most of the “drops” or build-ups were recorded in post-production, and this means I can’t really perform them live - this is unfortunately true for many sounds across the album.