Review: Joana Gama & Luís Fernandes – At the Still Point of the Turning World (Room40, Apr 6)

At the Still Point of the Turning World establishes tension from the very beginning. An ominous lone bass drum pulse is the only sound heard at the start of “Neither Flesh Nor Fleshless,” before it is joined by bursts of skin crawling strings. When piercing, Tilbury-esque chords and shifting noises enter the fray, I find myself deeply immersed and waiting for a satisfying release of the tension – but it never comes. This trend continues throughout the album, as Gama and Fernandes stack layers of dissonance upon each other, so much so at some points that the song seems too strained to stay together. The only catharsis obtained on At the Still Point of the Turning World is a frustrating one; it’s satisfying to witness the meticulous constructions decay and fall apart, but you’d expect at least one epic climax. That’s the thing, though – Gama and Fernandes have no interest in doing what’s expected, and it is this that makes the record as tantalizing as it is. Don’t get me wrong, there are moments I would call beautiful, especially the lush harmonies used on “Perpetual Possibility”; but ultimately it is these talented musicians’ admirable patience and reservations that keeps me coming back.

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