“Real e Indiscutível” is the refrain that inevitably describes Caldas da Rainha’s art rock and post punk unit, Cave Story. Throughout West (2016) and Punk Academics (2018) they have shaped an extensive vocabulary of minimalist tunes full of wit and delight, reinvigorating the language of rock and pop in a comprehensive exercise marked by deliberately autonomous working methods of recording, production and experimentation. In The Town, released at the end of 2021, the group set out to explore song structure in an intimate and intensely textured tone. The beginning of 2023 brought their third album Wide Wall, Tree Tall. Gonçalo Formiga (Vocals, Guitar), Ricardo Mendes (Drums) and Zé Maldito (Samplers, Guitar) called on Bia Diniz (April Marmara) to take over the bass in this new line-up.
Cave Story ⟡ Farpas ⟡ Veenho
The FARPAS ensemble – made up of António Feiteira, Guilherme Rodrigues and Miguel “Abras” Abreu – operates in the Jazz music genre, by crossing elements of free-form improvisation and an almost pop “rhapsodic” composition. The trio’s instrumentation is made up of drums, saxophone, voice, electric bass and electronic, analog or digital processing.
In August 2023, they published their first release, FARPAS – FARPAS (CFR 58), on the Cafetra Records label. It’s a record of the first meeting between the musicians involved, where they fragmented, in the studio, a recording in direct take, of a piece composed for their first live performance, at the Pilot Party 2022/2023 – Cybergarden Audiovisual Installation.
That month, Farpas also presented, in a sextet with Felice Furioso (drums), Guilherme Rodrigues (saxophone), Miguel Abras (bass and vocals), Miguel Limão (sampler and turntable), Tomé Silva (drums) and Vicente Costa (saxophone), ECO HINO, the result of a residency in Covas do Barroso, proposed by the A Sachola association, on the occasion of the camp in defense of Barroso, promoted by the anti-mining movement, No to Mining, Yes to Life.
The first time I heard VEENHO’s music, I was immediately overwhelmed with enthusiasm. Right from the first listen, I felt it was obvious that I was listening to a group of friends who share a clear vision of the music they want to produce together. Without beating about the bush, they get straight to the point and don’t overload their melodies with the pretentiousness so common in today’s music scene. The result is brutally raw, sincere and honest.
On this new album, the enthusiasm remains, with a throbbing pulse. However, it’s now noticeable that the band has perfected its ability to focus with greater determination on the direction it wants to take. You can hear a play of dichotomies between the catharsis of externalization and the introspection needed to reach the conclusions that result in this set of songs. Although they’re just doing their own thing, they have the dexterity to honor the legacy of the alternative rock forefathers who opened the door to our contemporary sensibility.
If we look back ten years in the history of indie rock from Olisipon, we certainly wish that the bands of that era had been able to sound like this, in a place where distortion and clarity can coexist. The attention paid to the timbre of each instrument in this studio work is notable. All the textures matter, and if there are moments with low fidelity elements, we feel their intentionality, that is, it’s not just a gimmick to mask inability or laziness – on the contrary, it’s an asset.
The band manages to combine guitar riffs that make you want to sing along as you shake your head to the sound of the galloping rhythm section. At the same time, we are confronted with a number of questions that make us reflect on the divide that exists between the deepest point of our hypersensitivity and the surface of our collective hypersensitivity, as we can see in tracks like “Meio Ausente” or “Nunca Arrumo Habilidade Para Desabafar”. The band’s ability to create sound images is truly commendable. The instrumentation materializes the sensations that the music evokes, as in “Leather Cleaner”, which makes us feel the physicality of the volatile acceleration caused by a sulphurous vapor that dissipates in less than half a minute. Or in “Fear of Heights”, in which the guitars become dizzying and disorientating, as if we had an inexplicable fear inside us that was impossible to control.
This is a rock album that presents everything we expect from this genre of music. But it’s all the more captivating for being a set of songs created from the male perspective without giving in to the toxicity that is usually associated with it, accepting its frailties with dignity. As someone who has witnessed the last two decades of independent labels publishing rock in Lisbon, I am deeply proud to know that in this new generation there is a greater maturity that was not seen in the past, as well as an ability to always keep interesting and renew the luster of a musical genre that has already been so exploited. (Alex D’Alva Teixeira)