Ingredients: a remote Scottish island, a Portuguese rocker, a British producer and the songs and voice of a woman from the tropics. Sounds a bit like a crazy fantasy novel, right? Yet exactly there, where George Orwell once wrote his successful novel 1984, and through the vision of the Angolan songwriter Aline Frazão has emerged a work of melancholic beauty, that is most likely unique in the Portuguese language so far.
There isn’t much on the Isle of Jura, off the coast of Scotland: rocky shores, barren meadows, 200 inhabitants, a pub and the famous peat-smoked whiskey. One is tempted to call her crazy, this Angolan musician who chose exactly this spot on the map, to compose her third album. Yet Aline Frazão’s musical universe is sewn together a bit differently, it doesn’t shy away from the winding path or unusual turns.
The 27-year-old comes from Angola’s capital Luanda, and at first her biography reads a bit like that of many colleagues of the Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking) culture. In her teens she sings Fado, Jazz and Brazilian Pop, traditional music from Angola and Cape Verde. At fifteen she moves to Lisbon. As she begins to write her first songs, they are clearly influenced by Bossa Nova. Travelling from Buenos Aires to Dublin she gathers many experiences while performing in small bars and clubs, and she takes a trip through the different Lusophone cultures by being involved in the project A Minha Embala (2009). On her own first album Clave Bantu (2011) she tells the story of her African people, who take off traveling by sea to Brazil and Cuba. On her second work Movimento (2013) she reveals an evermore independent musical language, which withdraw the African roots in favor of a self-conscious indie rock attitude. In her lyrics to her songs she refers to deep, image rich verses of renowned Angolan poets.
The story behind Frazão‘s third album Insular is as much adventurous as it is decisive, and it begins, yet another curious twist, actually in the Central Asian republic of Tuva. It was from there that in 2009 the singer Albert Kuvezin took off with his rock band Yat-Kha to find inspiration for his new album in a place that represented the greatest conceivable contrast to his homeland. From the grasslands of the Steppes to Jura in the North Atlantic, where the Brit Files Perring had just set up his studio The Sound Of Jura. From the scenic shock came the production Poets And Lighthouses. As Carlos Seixas, organizer of the Festival Música do Mundo, tells his girlfriend Aline Frazão this crazy story, she can no longer get the Scottish island out of her head. Because she is also looking for a place where she can, like Kuvezin, redefine herself musically.
She decided to take the plunge: a phone call to Perring revealed that the Brit had little knowledge of Lusophone sounds, he hadn’t even heard of Cesaria Evora. “Fantastic! I thought to myself, someone who has completely different references than I,” said Frazão reminiscent of their first contact. But while the Angolan is preparing the songs for the session, she has one thought going constantly through her mind, that her plan is “a little crazy”. One thing is for certain, she wants to shake up any stereotypes of Angolan, Brazilian or Jazz sounds. Literally, a leap into the dark. In order to make the reinvention of herself complete, she decides to pair her sound with an electric guitar, and not just any. For the electrified part of the arrangements she contacts Pedro Geraldes, the guitarist of Linda Martini, at the time the most famous Rock band in Portugal. Geraldes turns out to be the perfect fit for the new sound, with his Indie Rock background on the one hand and his weakness for the sounds of the African guitar on the other.
And this is how the visions of Insular begin to take on great form. Visions that begin with a dreamy title track, in which she tells of becoming close with the island and there in its loneliness, she learned to read the stars and the sky. Visions, that seductively writhe in the union between the acoustic guitar and the harp in “Império Perdido”. That ultimately climax in a piece like “Mascarados”, a fully sensual Melos, like one knows from the Brazilian Marisa Monte, and Geraldes paints with his guitar a multi-layers soundtrack between whispers and truism.
Of course, the album is far from lethargic fog: In “O Som Do Jacarandá” Frazão paints a picture of a city made of rosewood, in which pollen is being blown around and the sound of the sea is touching upon it, a memory of her African roots with transverse dance rythms. “Langidila” is her homage to the Angolan independence fighter Deolinda Rodrigues, whom she honors with spoken word verses and a groove that could come straight from the Moroccan Gnawa. “A Louca” comes in as downright blunt, therefore the guitar is biting and screaming, while she interprets the verses of rapper Capicua from Porto. These tell of an abused woman who has gone mad. And the crashing pinnacle of the album is reached with "A Prosa Da Situação", that reports in furious metaphors of a kingdom of oppression.
Finally, Aline Frazão even crashes onto the shores of the world’s literature with: "O Homem Que Queria Um Barco" (The man who asked for a boat) is her version of "O Conto Da Ilha Desconhecida", a story of Nobel Prize winner José Saramago. With masterful dramatics of harp preludes and pensive clarinet she tells the story of the search for the unknown island, which she also experienced during the recordings on Jura as her search for herself. Ultimately in the finale, in order to complete the circle, she sails into her home port: “Susana” is an unmistakable homage to the Semba rhythms of Angola, with exhilarating acoustics and lines in Kriolu.Insular is a wonderfully, exciting story of a woman from the tropics, who found in the isolation of the North Atlantic, the ideal melancholic setting, for poetically painting her music.
Official Website: http://www.alinefrazao.com/