20 May 2022

Portugal

O melhor álbum português.

'Portuguese composer Nuno Canavarro’s cult classic debut album Plux Quba is a sublime collection of electronic experiments created using only an 8-bit sampler and 8-track tape recorder. The story goes that this obscure, private press record was first discovered by German musician Christoph Heemann, who played it at a listening session in Köln with friends Jim O’Rourke and members of Oval and Mouse on Mars.'

'Koln, Germany around 1991. After a 40-minute train ride from Aachen, Christoph Heemann and Jim O'Rourke are sitting around with Jan St. Werner, C-Schulz, Frank Dommert and George Odjik. Heemann has brought with him a strange obscure disc (what else?) from Portugal by some group called "Plux Quba." Or is it the record? The label? Who knows, because no one here reads Portuguese, dummy! But what they do know when the needle hits the groove is that they've never heard anything like it. Attempts to cite reference points are soon given up, there are some similarities to Robert Ashley's later work, but even that is deceiving. It is simple, gentle, melodic, and yet completely alien. Originally released in 1988 on Ama Romanta, and reissued last in 1998 on Moikai.'

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'Plux Quba, a mysterious recording by the even more mysterious Portuguese musician Nuno Canavarro, was originally issued in 1988 only to disappear without a trace before being rescued from oblivion by Jim O'Rourke in 1998 for release on his Moikai label. It's easy to hear why the music herein would appeal to O'Rourke and also why it has come to be recognized as a seminal work of electronic music, influencing several post-modern groups that would gain prominence in the '90s, including Mouse on Mars and Oval. The general texture of the album's sounds tends toward the soft and bell like, with rhythms that flow in and out of strict time. There is also the recurring use of a melodica and taped voices, the latter usually altered and sometimes played in reverse. The voices are often very low in the mix, almost subliminal, and, indeed, some of the disc sounds eerily similar in approach to Robert Ashley's composition "Automatic Writing" in terms of the dreamlike, semiconscious feel achieved. Even the scattering of titles among the tracks with numerous songs left unnamed contributes to this dreamy character. There are also subtle hints of folk melodies surfacing from time to time, providing enough of an earthy linkage to ensure that the music never comes close to new age territory. Plux Quba is quite a fascinating release, both enjoyable and intriguing on its own, and also as a critical historical document making clear to the listener that certain ideas were in the air long before the public was aware of them. It's well worth picking up for the fan of exploratory ambient music, and for those interested in late 20th century experimental music in general.' -Review by Brian Olewnick

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'Taking that glitchy electronica generally turned out to be rather tedious proposition (at least in full-length format) I don’t see how Canavarro’s imaginative and wide-eyed music can be seen as the roots of clinical-sounding Germanic minimal techno decorated with artefacts of CD playback malfunction.

To my ears “Plux Quba” has more affinity with uniquely Mediterranean heritage of experimental library music as well as 1980s brand of incidental music composed specifically for modern dance and avant theatre productions (Daniel Bacalov, Piero Milesi, Roberto Musci, Finis Africae, Pep Llopis etc.) Sort of like small-budget extension of avant classical tropes (minimalism, tape music) into the late 1970s idiom of electronic and ambient music.

Normally I dislike fanciful metaphoric descriptions of abstract music because it can and should evoke a wide spectrum of visuals (or atmospheres) to different listeners, but for me personally this album brings up the childhood memories of diving in the crystal clear and almost still sea water and looking up at the sun through the mass of water.' -Snows Ov Gethen 

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Nuno Canavarro's Plux Quba hails from three decades in the past, yet the simple profile of it's abstract/ambient/cutup collage makes it a record that sits quite comfortably in our IDM-informed future. In 1988, Plux Quba was a primal dark horse in the world of pants-forward electronic music - an obscurity issued with little explanation from the laid-back west coast of Europe: Portugal, of all places! - though the casual listener could hardly know that from an examination of the LP jacket. The vanguard of electronics in late-80s Europe was being pushed by organizations like Nurse With Wound, The Hafler Trio, HNAS - and yet, when Christoph Heemann came across this recording, it struck his ears and the ears of fellow listeners like nothing before. Plux Quba was handed around between the principles of the early 90s A-Musik scene: Jan St. Werner, C-Schulz, Frank Dommert, Georg Odijk, plus interested fellow travelers like Jim O'Rourke, to the intense curiosity of all. To ears that were already saturated with all things kraut, the dark corners of prog and the frontline of experimental and improvised music, it proved elusive. Not simply in how it sounded and how that sound was achieved, but in where it was coming from - like later Robert Ashley at times, certain stretches of melody recalled some of Eno's ambient pieces - but mostly, it was a completely alien soundscape! And who was it? Was the band called Plux Quba? The record? The label? These sorts of mysteries are at the heart of records that require close listening and re-listening. As it was absorbed, it grew to be an influence on the Köln sound - Mouse On Mars, Lithops, and Heemann's many and varied projects? As well as O'Rourke, Fennesz and many others. Music and sound of this nature have for many years been made available by bands like Autechre, labels like Mille Plateaux - but for the first ten years of its existence, Plux Quba was rarely heard.

O'Rourke reissued it as the first record on his Moikai label in 1998, and it had a good run through around 2005 before the last of the print parts were filled. It's almost a decade since Plux Quba was available, which is way too long considering that we live in an era where it is NECESSARY to have an LP of this on hand for your contemporary listening distractions. And so, Drag City has stepped in to reissue the Moikai reissue of Nuno Canavarro's classic Plux Quba.

Nuno Canavarro


One of the greatest sonic masterpieces of the '80s - long championed by Jim O'Rourke and foreshadowing the work of an entire generation of experimental electronic music that emerged during the 1990s - Christian Fennesz, Oval, Mouse on Mars, Microstoria, C-Schulz, Mountains, and Oren Ambarchi - we're thrilled to offer an essential repress of Nuno Canavarro's visionary LP, Plux Quba, via the venerable Drag City. Originally appearing from the shadows of the mysterious vanguard of Portuguese music in 1988, few records are as striking and essential as this!

When it comes to experimental music, particularly 20th century electronic and electroacoustic music, Portugal remains a relatively shadowy and mysterious realm. Very little is widely known about the country’s artists and the works they have produced, an unfortunate, lasting legacy of the Estado Novo dictatorship that blanketed the country under authoritarian, right-wing rule from 1933 to 1974. During a high period in the development of the idiom that witnessed artists from most of its European neighbours (with the obvious exception of Spain) enjoyed considerable institutional and cultural support, pioneers like Jorge Peixinho, Cândido Lima, Filipe Pires, and Álvaro Salazar were all forced to leave Portugal for studios like GRM in Paris, IPEM in Ghent, and CEMAMu in Vincennes, in order to adequately pursue their work. While broad attention still didn’t come their way, with the end of the dictatorship and the development of more accessible technologies, things began to change for a new generation of artists that arose during the 1980s. Making up for lost time, they produced a small catalog of truly visionary work, among the most striking of which was Nuno Canavarro’s Plux Quba, a stunningly singular LP of electronic and electroacoustic wizardry, originally issued in 1988 on the tiny imprint Ama Romanta.

While virtually unheard at the time, the album gained fame during the late '90s, when it was championed by Jim O’Rourke, and reissued on his own Moikai imprint. For many, it became regarded as among the greatest of the great. Thankfully, along the way, Drag City took up the cause, and now they’ve repressed this stunningly singular wonder and placed it back in our hands. Easily among the best and most important experimental electronic albums of the '80s, it’s an absolute must for every fan of adventurous sound.

Despite all the attention that Plux Quba and Mr. Wollogallu - his legendary collaboration with Carlos Maria Trindade - have received over the years, very little is known about the Portuguese composer Nuno Canavarro. He has, by all indications, chosen to remain relatively quiet, working in film for many years since the release of these now legendary endevors. Canavarro began his career within popular music, playing in Delfins - one of the more significant bands of the era - with his later collaborative partner Carlos Maria Trindade, but, like many of his predecessors, pursued most of his musical studies outside of Portugal, spending two years in at the Institute of Sonology at the University of Utrecht, in the years leading up to the emergence of Plux Quba.

Plux Quba was recorded at Canavarro’s home on an Ensoniq Mirage 8-bit sampler and a Fostex 8-track tape recorder, using an array of sound sources, before being released in a small edition oN Ama Romanta. Like the vast majority of Portuguese experimental music, the album remained largely unheard until it was rescued from the shadows via a reissue by Jim O’Rourke on his Moikai imprint in 1998, having been introduced to him by Christoph Heemann toward the beginning of the decade. Viewed retrospectively, Plux Quba can be seen to foreshadow an entire generation of work that would emerge in the hands of artists like Christian Fennesz, Oval, Mouse on Mars, Microstoria, C-Schulz, Mountains, and Oren Ambarchi, not to mention fellow countrymen like Rafael Toral.

Radical in every way, while Plux Quba foreshadowed so much of what was to come in the field of experimental electronic music, it also presents a striking bridge to the idiom’s past - particularly works of synthesis and tape-based work emerging from studios like GRM and EMS during the '60s and '70s, or the efforts of Robert Ashley and Brian Eno - while managing, remarkably, to sound entirely singular and unlike anything else. Sounds that defy easy location in their source - are they acoustic, synthetic, or samples taken from who knows where - ripple and collide across two staggeringly beautiful and creatively challenging sides, appearing elegantly simple and direct within the album's visionary structural complexity.

In the simplest terms, Canavarro’s Plux Quba is nothing short of a masterpiece; one of the greatest sonic accomplishments of the '80s by great lengths. This is experimental music in its greatest and most rigorous form, without losing a moment of seductive appeal. It’s as beautiful and listenable as it is challenging to the ear and mind, remaining relevant and forwarding thinking even after more than three decades.

1. [Untitled] 1:29
2. Alsee 0:51
3. O Fundo Oscuro de Alsee 1:57
4. [Untitled] 1:24
5. [Untitled] 4:20
6. [Untitled] 1:18
7. [Untitled] 2:08
8. Wask 5:37
9. [Untitled] 2:45
10. Wolfie 2:13
11. Crimine 4:34
12. Bruma 1:44
13. [Untitled] 1:01
14. Cave 4:16
15. [Untitled] 2:43

Credits
Composed By [Composicöes], Instruments [Instrumentos] – Nuno Canavarro
Electronics, Melodica, Tape [Pre-Recorded Tapes] – NC