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Various Artists – Quatro 4 IV

Quatro IV is a 2010 collection of four EPs from four Portuguese experimental groups- Himalahya, Dream Metaphor, Vysehrad and Electrolise, it was released by the Portuguese label and distribution house Thisco (home to releases from familiar artists like Merzbow, Randy Greif and K.K. Null.) Each group contributes between fifteen and twenty minutes of material as well as artwork. These artists work well together and the collection is very coherent, the different groups flowing into each other well even though stylistically their sounds vary, ranging from Electrolise’s ambient IDM to Vysehrad’s mysterious darkwave, Himalahya’s somber minimalism to Dream Metaphor’s cinematic production.

My favorite contribution is Vysehrad’s set, full of moody dark synths, their songs remind me of Love is Colder Than Death’s more industrial side with slow crushing beats and elegant pulsing strings. ‘Shapeless’ has a long buildup and can reach a claustrophobic intensity at times. ‘Tempus Fugit’ is a driving EBM piece that would work well on a dancefloor with its relaxed but still urgent tempo.

Himalayha’s sole member Hélder Costa cites composers Erik Satie and Zbigniew Preisne among his influences, it is easy to see why. These tracks are simple and understated. ‘Luthier’ has a dreamlike quality, with hazy voices and minimalist ensemble synths. ‘Le Petit Mort’ is an ambient soundscape where a skeletal piano crawls across endless swells of shimmering electronics. Immensity and expanse are channeled by this music. The unadorned neoclassical texture in these songs gives the listener a sense of grace and substance despite or because of the sparse arrangements.

Electrolise offer solemn, pendulous dark ambient, ‘Just Flowing Away’ recalls Einsturzende Neubauten’s ‘The Garden,’ with the world-weary vocals and crushing back and forth pulse working together to create a sense of timeless eternity. The last track of Electrolise’s set ‘Dawn of the White Light’ begins with a descending sequence that is carried through to the end of the album making an anticlimactic resolution, the music calmly disappearing into the ether.

Linkin Himalayha to Vyserehrad is Dream Metaphor. The vocal showcase ‘Distance’ is a modern pop anthem of disillusion and subtle darkness. The amazing production of ‘Distance’ adds so many spider silken layers to listen for, yet I am dismayed by its striking similarity to the detestable arena rock reigning supreme amongst the angry youth where I am. Dream Metaphor’s ambient tracks are supreme however, blissful dream draperies to blind a body from the harsh realities of the daytime nightmare people and all they force upon us.

Despite my superficial genre ghetto minded complaint, Quatro is great music. You can use it to keep a crowd mellow and quiet during a drunken night, or as a divinatory tool for a more sober soirée. Thanks are plenty to the four splendid artists committing their music and art to this awesome sampler of contemporary dark ambient and neoclassical music in Portugal.

Rating: 4/5
Journalist Name: Bryan Babylon
Genre: Neoclassical/Dark Ambient/Darkwave
Label: Thisco (PT)

Himalayha – Melancolia em dia menor:
01. Le Petit Mort
02. Melancolia Nº 4
03. Luthier
04. Pelicano a Cores Em Dia Cinzento
05. Nave de Haver (Série 900)

Dream Metaphor – Bring Back the Memories:
06. Distance
07. Cântico de Despedida
08. Endless Journey

Vysehrad – Tempus Fugit:
09. Nova Terra
10. Shapeless
11. Tempus Fugit

Eletrólise – Ocre:
12. Just Flowing Away
13. Keep Your Head Above Water
14. Light Painting
15. Dawn of the White Light