Since his debut LP in 2007, Lisbon’s Norberto Lobo has had a knack for embedding hooky melodies into mind bending nylon and steel string guitar parts. Fornalha is Lobo’s sixth solo album and his first on three:four records.
Fornalha – roughly translated as oven or furnace – is a fantastic guitar record. Lobo has a formidable bag of techniques, but he employs them with such earthiness as to never sound like a procession of tricks. Take the track “Fran”, for example. Lobo weaves a series of deft pull offs and double stops throughout the sensitive piece whilst extending it through the clever use of a delay pedal in ‘hold’ mode. The resulting sustained chords take on an organ-like resonance. As a bonus, Lobo’s footswitching of the effect is clearly audible throughout the piece, distractingly loud in the opening. It’s an endearing quirk.
Likewise, “Pen Ward” demonstrates effortlessly beautiful finger style playing before shifting into a tapping cadenza that is more rhythmic and textural than the polyphonic (and much copied) approach of Preston Reed or Kaki King. On other tracks Lobo bows the strings, spanning from sweet caresses to intense sawing, all the while delivering a plethora of timbres. It’s a guitar Jim, but not as we know it.
At the heart of Fornalha – and ultimately the reason it succeeds – are the simple melodic themes, repeated and patiently retold throughout the arrangements. Despite all the extended techniques and raw processing I’ve described, Lobo delivers the pieces with a refreshing sense of restraint and self-assurance.
Fornalha is available on vinyl, CD and download from three:four records.