New album from HHY & The Macumbas is Beheaded Totem (HOUSE OF MYTHOLOGY HOM 013), and a fine spookerising dub odyssey it do be…you may recall we heard their debut Throat Permission Cut in 2014, and have been following the exploits and visions of the producer, Jonathan Uliel Saldanha for some years – last noted his solo work on Tunnel Vision, the LP recorded in various echoey caves around Portugal.
HHY & The Macumbas is might be something of a studio construct rather than a touring band, and I think it’s fair to say Saldanha’s “concept” is guiding the whole production, but there are some fine musicians playing on the grooves here. Four percussionists and three horn players – the equation this time has been to strip everything down to just horns and beats – except there are many electronic elements, ingenious synth tones lurking like dragons on the horizon, and the mixage and arrangement is all in the hands of Saldanha, working behind the spools like a combination of Teo Macero, King Tubby, and Adrian Sherwood. What emerges very strongly is the way that conventional song construction is simply not a part of the deal at all – every track is just a continual forward-moving trek deeper into the dubby jungle, where the variances and dynamics are mostly created on the mixing desk rather than as pre-constructed musical events.
Yet this isn’t an especially dance-able or even entertaining album; for one thing, there’s a nocturnal voodoo mood which persists across most of it, evoking and sustaining a rather threatening emotional state; and the basic rhythms lumber and clomp rather than skip lightly like some merry sprite with funk in their ethereal footsteps. Some of the best musical moments are produced by long percussive sections, almost cryptical in their endless bone-rattling patterns, punctuated by echoed horn sections uttering a brief plaint from a very strange place with their haunted, melancholic tones. It’s all very unsettling; if there’s any dancing going on in this twilit clearing, it’s most likely a troupe with face and body paint got up to look like skeletons, and we’ll all be dead by dawn. From 29th November 2018.