Tiago Sousa & João Correia: Insónia
Humming Conch

On occasion I'll familiarize myself with a new recording by playing it the first few times while reading the newspaper or some such thing—the idea being that the material will seep into consciousness subliminally before being given the fullest attention when being reviewed. At such times, I'm sometimes startled to hear the beauty of a particular piece assert itself, and that's precisely the reaction I had when, giving Insónia my fullest attention, I heard its title track as if for the first time. Pianist Tiago Sousa (the founder of the now-defunct, Portugal-based netlabel Merzbau) gives the melancholy piece a stark and dramatic reading whose beauty sneaks up on you. It's hardly the only memorable moment on the recording: “Reflexo” also stands out as a brooding, emotionally-charged exploration, as do “Pêndulo,” which Sousa augments with sprinkles of João Correia's percussive accompaniment, and “Passos,” an elegant and impressionistic nocturne.

Though much of Insónia, Tiago's fourth record, features ruminative piano-based settings, often reminiscent of Satie in their simplicity and lyricism and of Debussy in their impressionistic meander, other tracks include contributions from Correia and clarinetist Ricardo Ribeiro (“Movimento” features both piano and classical acoustic guitar playing by Sousa). It's an album of varying moods—wistful and melancholy one moment, aggressive and turbulent the next—that was recorded in a small bedroom at Barreiro; consequently, one sometimes hears faint traces of human activity alongside the material proper. Ribeiro adds multi-tracked clarinet playing to “Folha Caduca,” which in turn adds a jazzy dimension to the recording, while “Surrealismo Impressionista,” more psychedelic than impressionistic, exudes the flavour of a Dionysian fever dream, with clarinet, organ, and percussion simulating the dizzying movements of a whirling dervish during its ten-minute running time. It's not hard to understand how one could overlook the recording's charms as it's not the kind of material that shouts from the rooftops. Though its tasteful piano-and-drums settings are understated creations, a close listen reveals it to be music of high calibre indeed and certainly worthy of one's attention.

February 2010