Carlos Maria Trindade / Nuno Canavarro - Mr. Wollogallu

Carlos Maria Trindade / Nuno Canavarro - Mr. Wollogallu

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Electronic & Synth New Age & Ambient Reissue

"Demand for the weird, wonderful and fabulously obscure has become so acute among record collectors that mythical lost albums now turn up on our shelves with a suspicious frequency. Mr. Wollogallu, freshly reissued by Barcelona label Urpa i Musell, ticks most of the boxes for this type of release—scarcity, exclusivity and a small but rabid fan base ready to talk up the record’s significance on Discogs. Better still, the album comes with a compelling lightning-in-a-bottle backstory: Carlos Maria Trindade and Nuno Canavarro were staples of the 1980s Portuguese rock scene who came together in 1990 to record this, their only collaboration.

And the music? Mr. Wollogallu doesn’t necessarily deliver the lightbulb-popping feeling of revelation that many Anglo-American listeners seek in reissues of, say, 1970s Brazilian electronic music or Japanese ambient sounds. In fact, its combination of globally disparate instruments—everything from an Okinawa flute to an African mbira—with vintage electronic production techniques fits squarely into the “Fourth World” aesthetic that Jon Hassellpioneered in the early ’80s on celebrated albums like Fourth World, Vol. 1: Possible Musics.

Luckily, Trindade and Canavarro also share Hassell’s compositional and melodic gifts. The chord patterns on many of the album’s 13 songs toy with the listeners’ feelings like kittens and string, plunging us from light into dark (as on “Guiar,” where an overly jaunty guitar riff takes a swift, melancholic tumble) or teasing the light at the end of an emotional tunnel. At times, notably on “Ven 5” and “Segredos M.,” these changes have a wonderfully dramatic feel, reminiscent of the most accomplished soundtrack music.

Dig a little deeper, and it is Mr. Wollogallu’s subtle textures that linger. Aside from the solo piano piece “West,” each song is packed with distinct, contrasting elements. Opener “The Truth,” for example, uses marimba, strings, vibraphone, trombone, organ, vocal samples and Okinawa flute to evoke a serene excursion to—where, exactly? The song feels geographically baffling in the most rewarding way, like waking up jet-lagged and clueless in a new country. Mia Brown, a friend of the duo who was present during the album’s recording process, says in the reissue’s sleeve notes that mixing Mr. Wollogallu was a painstaking procedure, and you can hear that care in the music’s warm and perfectly balanced timbre.

Allied to this are a series of brilliant production touches that trigger a faint, lingering unease, preventing Mr. Wollogallu from becoming too self-satisfied. “Plan” features a haunting vocal effect, somewhere between a wistful sigh and a dying gasp of air, that floats around half-hidden in the song’s latter stages; “Aelux” marries a proto-Airorgan melody to an unsettling vocal collage. Recording the album at their own pace, away from record company constraints, Trindade and Canavarro experimented with techniques such as sound “resampling,” “tape cutting” and “computer-controlled event reversing”—yielding the alien organ tones that introduce “S. Louise,” or the way “Em Bou-Saada” dissolves into an entirely new song in its closing moment, like a sonic mirage.

Ultimately, Mr. Wollogallu’s faults mean it's not quite a classic, lost or otherwise—the seven-minute “Blu Terra” is an atmosphere looking for a melody, and “West” is far too straight-laced to take off. But the record’s haunting grace is such that it’s easy to understand why a group of devoted listeners remain fixed on its charms, nearly three decades on." - Pitchfork (Ben Cardew)