Follow me into the electronic church of Ricardo Remédio, a prolific musician who has collaborated with various doom bands and electronic projects in his native Portugal. Under the divine gaze of Sunn O))) and Ulver collaborator and multi-instrumentalist, Daniel O’Sullivan, Natureza Morta is Ricardo Remédio’s first solo record. The album is atypical in that it contains no riffs, vocals, drums or your everyday heavy metal violence. It’s an album that throbs, screeches, echoes and whirs through suspenseful and ominous avenues of electronica. Natureza Morta may lack the stringed brutality and snarled rage of metal but the electronic stand-ins of dense ambient noise, 80’s horror movie-esque synths and atmospheric drones should satisfy the staunchest of extreme-metal purists.
There is a haunting density, mixed with melancholy and unease to the record as a whole – surely a by-product Remédio’s work with Portuguese doomsters Löbo – that combines deep droning bass lines, unusual percussive noise, and grating industrial repetitions together with floating synth melodies. The opener “Banquete” is a solid example of the dynamic between shimmering melodic touches and earth-shaking drones as machine-like throbs make way for glimmering, high pitched electronics. Similarly in “Vigília” cultish crowd chants rise through the mix with an angelic softness together with solemn shoegaze-esque overdrive. However the album is usually at its best when delving into the dark and ominous electronic underground.
There’s a captivating feel to the album and it pieces together reasonably harmoniously. The odd song, such as “Ossos” and “Efermo,” fails to really capture or add anything of real substance beyond weakly prolonging the atmosphere, but thankfully these two tracks are the only real let-downs and the remainder are solidly arranged and easy to differentiate. “Caça,” for example, is the most powerful song on the album, sounding like a mash-up between the atmospheric work of composer/DJ Jon Hopkins and John Carpenter. “Caca” has an engrossing mix of throbbing and suspenseful bass sounds straight from the movie The Thing and airy, fluttering, dreamlike reverberations straight from Stranger Things. It’s a harrowing ten minute track that builds layer upon layer expertly.
Natureza Morta is the sort of album that could wash over you in a muddy haze of nothingness if you ignore its intricacies. This may be read as more of a negative than a positive, but Ricardo Remédio’s electronic touches are often subtle and gradually integrated into long songs. Delicate resonances froth, layer upon layer upon layer, at a close to inaudible tone. Towards the end of “Caça,” for example, beneath the pulse and clangor, the faintest trace of whispered vocals can just about be made out. I hadn’t noticed the sound on prior listens and I was impressed, and also creeped out by these almost subliminal noises seething at a near-to inaudible tone. Similarly the final track “Rei Morto, Rei Posto” vibrates with a forcefulness as deep bass tones repeat beneath trickling synth patterns, warping space sounds, and the faintest trace of a piano. The song builds, and grooves with a vintage 80’s vibe akin to Perturbator as it heads to a satisfying conclusion. The production throughout is top-notch and aids the album greatly.
The best songs on Natureza Morta are those driven by a sturdy underlying beat. It’s the darker tracks too, the ones with a more urgent ominousness that create the lasting impression. Pure aggression and intensity is not necessarily at the forefront here but there is the occasional sharp change in tone and sound that shakes things up nicely. The twinkling melodies and more up-beat tone of songs such as “Suor Noturno” fail to really spruce things up, mostly washing through the album in bland haze, however for the most part the album, when dark and haunting, is strong. Natureza Morta is a rich and textured work that reveals itself skillfully after multiple listens. It’s well worth venturing into the non-metal wilderness for this release.