DJ Nigga Fox: Cartas Na Manga

In early 2015, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke posted a few tracks he was taken with at that moment, ranging from Kool A.D. to musique concrète master Bernard Parmegiani, pummeling UK techno to Caribbean soca. But even among these eclectic selections, DJ Nigga Fox’s “Weed” stood out. At a time when few knew about Portugal’s Príncipe label and their hand-painted 12” releases, Yorke helped introduce the rest of the world to the bewildering polyrhythms of Rogério Brandão and his labelmates, all of them representatives of Lisbon’s Afro-Lusophone diaspora. Their sound, batida, has since traversed the globe: Nídia appeared on Fever Ray’s Plunge, DJ Marfox has mixed with DJ Rashad and DJ Spinn, and Nigga Fox released an EP on Warp last year. But for the most part Príncipe and its artists have kept their mix of kuduro, semba, and kizomba relatively close to home and defiantly undiluted.

Brandão has restlessly continued innovating—just see his 15-minute single “15 Barras,” an outlier in a scene full of two- and three-minute songs. But with the nine-track Cartas Na Manga, he returns to the label for the first time in two years to drop his most exploratory set to date. It retains the woozy instability of his prior work while folding in startling new timbres. “Sub Zero” shows off Brandão’s skill set from the jump, juggling a number of incongruent bleeps, claps, gurgles, and alien tones for its first three minutes and allowing them to build. Then, in an instant, he flips it all on its head like a Jello mold, whole and wholly coherent.

Nigga Fox’s gymnastic knack for inverting everything and still nailing the landing carries across the set. In that way Cartas Na Manga emulates its modular cover art, by in-house designer Márcio Matos, whose sticker shapes can be assembled in any number of ways. Throughout the album, new shards of sound jump out: horn fanfare, piano, electronically warped exhalations, even flute and synthesized woodwinds. The pummeling that opens “Nhama” soon careens into plonky piano, marimba, and flickering vocals, fracturing into numerous small elements yet still holding together as a track. “Faz a Minha” flashes a number of telltale sounds from different subgenres of dance—acid gurgle, house low end, itchy experimental electronics—then spins it like a carousel so that it all blurs into giddy release.

“Talanzele” is the most straightforward dancefloor track, but even then Nigga Fox makes it feel permeable, letting a flute amble in and then an array of kitchen-sink percussion march across it. “Água Morna” takes the trademark knocking Príncipe beats and injects the kind of minor-key apprehensiveness that Lalo Schifrin or Quincy Jones would add to a soundtrack to heighten tension.

If you ever wondered what Nigga Fox would sound like if he turned pensive and absurd, there’s closer “5 Violinos.” Thrummed metal gives the track its dreamy shuffle, while his voice is screwed up and down, cartoonish one moment, a drugged warble the next. Whether you make out the boast “Nigga Fox na maior” as “the illest” or “the chillest,” depending on your translation of Portuguese street slang, Brandão still sounds far out there, inviting the rest of us into his headspace.

Read More

Leave a Reply

Close Menu