XS Records of Portugal is one of the best netlabels out there. Everything’s free – ranging from short EPs through to full length albums. They’re also pretty prolific. Best of all, you’re guaranteed that the music is going to be interesting, often challenging stuff. There’s no set label sound, but what their releases do have in common is a willingness to push boundaries and explore hidden corners. What you won’t get is anything generic, formulaic or dull. On the downside, of course, sometimes experimentation wins out over listenability, but that’s OK – the strike rate’s good, and I like the “kinder egg” experience of not knowing what exactly you’ll get till you’ve got it.
DNP X-Citer is a pseudonym for one of the label’s co-founders Tiago Morgado. Algorrithmic Chaos (his spelling, not mine!) is a collection of three short tracks running to less than 9 minutes in total that uses electronics and viola. Rather than paraphrase his compositional methods, I’ll quote directly (here comes the science bit, as they say in commercials) “The electronic part of the EP was worked with the use of algorithmic composition techniques, where instruments in the DAW (digital audio workstation/sequenciador) were triggered by MIDI, according to simple theoretical and systematized assumptions from the AC Toolbox (designed by Paul Berg from the Institute of Sonology, The Hague, Netherlands).” I hope that means more to you than it does to me. So what does it sound like?
Challenging, in a word. All the tracks begin with the same metallic tolling like a starting bell, before the electronics pitch headfirst into a seemingly patternless chaos, with asynchronous beats, white noise, chimes, glitches and shredded drones bouncing around like screws in a shell. On top, the viola tries to harmonise and coalesce the chaos. Incredibly, there is melody and structure in there. What first seems both alien and random has moments of raw beauty. It’s not for the faint hearted, and you probably wouldn’t want to listen to an hour of it, but I found it all quite exciting. If you enjoy Confield era Autechre, you’ll love this. If you don’t, you probably won’t.
Morgado is also involved with Subterminal, but this is a very different sounding project. Quicksilver beats, thick wads of bass, and cold steel drones provide the backdrop for the dispassionate intonations of vocalist Leonardo Rosado. When John Foxx declared that he wanted to be a machine all those years ago, something like Rosado is probably what he had in mind. Deadpan, robotic and yet unsettlingly still human, he reminds me of Roy Batty in Blade Runner.
“With You” is terrific dystopian pop. With Morgado’s viola providing a rich counterpoint, “Filled With Light” is even better. “For the First Time” is a little long at nearly twelve minutes, but has a futuristic almost ballad feel, as the Rosado robot character gives a meditation on loneliness in an environment of spacey whooshes and bubbling beats. It all ends with a scratchy guitar solo and a flurry of blips, whistles and pulses before fading out into cold dead silence.
DNP X-Citer Tracks
1 Algorrithmic Chaos #1 2:55
2 Algorrithmic Chaos #2 2:50
3 Algorrithmic Chaos #1 3:05
1 With You 3:22
2 Filled With Light 4:40
3 For the First time 11:44