CD, Thisco, 2008
Despite the press surrounding this release declaring an unexpected melding of two irreconcilable halves – the traditional and the modern – the tactic is a tried and true formula for musical innovation and, occasionally, success. In this respect, “Phado” is as much curiosity as it is conventional. Musician Marco Miranda (a.k.a. M-PeX) learned the distinctive art of the Portuguese guitar from his grandfather and, like every good postmodern child, proceeded to apply a rich and evocative tradition to modes of contemporary culture and, more importantly, electronic beats. The result is wholly Iberian in atmosphere, sensual and melodic with more than a tinge of nostalgic melancholy. In fact this striking feeling of what the Portuguese term ‘saudade’ saturates it, evoking an ambience at once tangy and honey-dipped. These are the songs to compliment sentimental and lonely moods, when distance or time renders someone held dear intangible and missed.
“Phado” is obviously a play on fado, a particular style of traditional music from Portugal in which Portuguese guitar features prominently. Fado has its origins in the working class, not unlike the techno/rave and drum’n’bass from which “Phado” takes its modern cues, though the album remains rustic and classical in feel. M-PeX offers a talented and electronically charged re-imagining of an old acoustic art.
Most songs on “Phado” are around five minutes in length, yet contain a certain patience that loosens tensions, giving the illusion of extended stretches of time. The measured verses and steady pacing of “Hydheia” are a perfect example. On the other hand, it seems that some of these tracks would be better suited to a longer format, their endings too abrupt for their decidedly timeless flavor; not a complaint per se, but rather wishful thinking while relaxing to an album of only forty minutes’ duration. From the first plucked chords and ambient breathiness of the opening title track, M-PeX provides his listener a saga of melodic recurrence that is at times freely flowing or highly structured. “Melodia Perdida” embraces a whimsical combination of digital water droplets and broken beats, while “Phadistikal” comes across as obdurate and stompy in comparison. Likewise the stuttering drums of “Almanthika” contrast the lazy vocoder-voiced Nintendo theme of “The Cloud’s Whispering Song.” Although “Phado” is overall characterized by a balladic tone, naturally the closing “Balada do Tejo,” with its calling gulls and desperado flourishes, is the standout example. The sunset is painted there, beckoning the solitary rider into it at long last.
— Dutton Hauhart