Deep Throat

HHYMACUMBAS

Exciting and unusual record of live dubby rhythm music from HHY & The Macumbas. They’re a combo of razor-sharp musicians from Portugal featuring four percussionists, a three-piece horn section, and one hard-working bass player supporting the weight of an elephant on his back – and the fluid line-up is sometimes graced by their “shouter”, Filipe Silva. Throat Permission Cut is their debut LP, but they’ve been playing live since late 2008, with an impressive CV of concerts, festival appearances, TV and radio slots. However, the mastermind behind this project is HHY, none other than Jonathan Uliel Saldanha, who assembled the band, does the production, plays organ, and mostly shapes the music by what he calls “dub strategies”. I’m impressed to find Saldanha in this position, mainly because I’ve pegged him as an electro-acoustic composer, on the strength of his unusual album The Earth As A Floating Egg which we noted in 2010 – an imaginative “construct” of a fantasy island rendered in sound and music, with not a few literary allusions bubbling under the immaculate surface. However, there is one important precedent for HHY & The Macumbas in the form of United Scum Soundclash (U.S.S.), the large-scale big band project Saldanha worked on with Scott Nydegger to produce vast reams of percussion-heavy free rock.

Throat Permission Cut (SILO RECORDS) gives us five long instrumentals, which are ingeniously constructed layers of rhythm, drone and looping patterns, all of which mesmerise the listener as surely as any magical spell. Indeed that’s one of the associations Saldanha wishes to trigger, with his self-styled “space-age voodoo dub constructions”, the logo of the band which features a skull gripping a snake in its mandible, and his elaborate description of echo – which he calls “Skull Cave echo” and refers to the “immersion tactics of skull-cave oriented Dub”. See the Soopa link above for further fanciful descriptions of his process and what dub means to him. Meanwhile, the press notes advise us to listen out for “trance-inducing rhythms of Haiti and North Africa”. Interestingly there are few of the mechanics or dynamics that I would recognise as dub music influences, such as drop-outs, delays, silences, fades…and instead it seems HYY is intent on reinventing dub on his own elaborate terms. It’s certainly a very maximal strategy, and no space on the tape is left unfilled. If anything, the nearest template for this richly cluttered and over-heated music would be Teo Macero’s studio work for “electric” Miles Davis (Bitches Brew onwards) rather than King Tubby.

Saldanha pays his respects to Adrian Sherwood as major influence on HHY & The Macumbas, although to my ears he lacks Sherwood’s gift for compression and superfast real-time mixing; Throat Permission Cut is somewhat more languid than any given On-U Sound production, but it does sustain the vague undercurrent of menace which Sherwood fans might dig. What I mean by that is that each track suggests a slithering adversary slowly approaching you, like an entire legion of Komodo dragons. J.G. Ballard, William Burroughs and John Carpenter are also cited as influences, and one track is named after Brion Gysin. Arrived 11 July 2014.