Pedro Branco – guitar, effects
João Lencastre – drums, electronics
Fleaboy Records FB007
Hot off the intangible download presses of Flea Boy Records comes another slice of joyous, guitar-driven experimentation from EEL SLAP! And given that Vol. I made the aJazzNoise Best of 2017 list, Vol. II was greeted with a degree of anticipation here at aJN HQ. Not least because at nearly 50 minutes, this is a full-length album, expanding significantly on 2017’s 18-minute debut.
First of all, if you enjoyed Vol. I, you’ll enjoy Vol. II. And if you don’t know Vol. I then listen to Vol. II and then you’ll want to go back and listen to Vol. I too! (I hope you enjoyed that sentence half as much as I did…)
That said, while it may be lunatic and quirky in expression, Vol. II is less obviously humorous than its predecessor (though worry not, it still has the tongue-in-cheek “Every sound you hear is improvised” health warning and there’s a subtle wink in every track). Not sure if this means Messrs. Branco and Lencastre have matured personally (I hope not!), more likely it’s just the avenue down which their curiosity has led them. And as avenues go, it’s worth following…
Starting with the humming of mighty bees (or just maybe an overdriven guitar) “I” is all in-your-face drums and slabs and shards of sharpened axe yet preserving a surprising amount of space as it trepans your skull. The open space approach continues on “II”, Lencastre’s delicate percussive backdrop ebbing and flowing with subtle electronic additions behind some gloriously goofy string-bending from Branco. Then there’s the busy ADHD pointillistic outro of “III”, the outer space “IV”, the almost minimalist “V”, and the bold, languorous slow-build and decline of “VI” (in fact, tracks “I” through “VI” work as a suite, each statement flowing into the next, despite the breaks).
Finally, they finish on a song. “VII” is a beautifully bastardised indo-folk-blues that slides its way straight to your pleasure centre (wherever yours happens to be).
A very personal two-person language is emerging here – one that draws on rock’s forms and sonic palette but with a free improvisation philosophy. It’s articulate, accessible, deceptively familiar-sounding, and capable of entirely new expression. Compared to Vol. I, this disc overall features a tighter, denser dialogue. Think of it as a more passion-filled conversation – last time, Branco and Lencastre were having a light-hearted chat, this time the discussion is both more thoughtful and more vehement. Emotions run higher. Sounds evolve. Can’t wait for Vol. III…