Sunday, January 24, 2021
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Joana Guerra: Chão Vermelho

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Artist: Joana Guerra
Title: Chão Vermelho
Format: 12"
Label: Miasmah
Cellist and singer Joana Guerra’s “Chão Vermelho” (“red floor”) is a series of laments about the increasingly dry ground in the area of South Portugal where Guerra lives. It is part folksy, part tribalistic, part experimental, but in every case it wears its emotions on its sleeve- predominantly sorrow, but with elements of love and hope. Regeneration is the hope.Guerra herself, as well as cello and voice (mostly Portuguese, but English on “White Animal”), also plays Portuguese guitar, prepared electric guitar and keyboard, and is joined by friends contributing violin, percussion, “objects”, bass, and additional voice. The length of this list suggests a busy sound, or a party, but it is nothing of the sort. Most of the pieces are limited to only two or three performers at most, concentrating on one instrument each and with a focus on the space between the notes. Unnecessary virtuosity or complexity has been stripped back to concentrate on the texture and expressiveness of single notes and plucks- though there does seem to be at least a slight sense of enjoyment of the sound-bending process, exhibited for example in the rubbery bass tones of “Lume”.There’s either a discordant edge or an attitude to the bowing in pieces like “Onna-bugeisha”, and a strong theatrical sense that comes through in pieces like “Oasis”. It’s an unusual blend of somewhat longer pieces, five or six minutes, contrasted against tiny sketches such as the 26-second-long “Entropicar” or the frantic scratchy solo cello work of “Reducao”.There’s both a bleakness and an intimacy at play in “Chão Vermelho” that is at times uncomfortable, but there is a power behind it that makes it a very engaging and mood-changing listening experience.

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