In 2015 Gonçalo F Cardoso took a 6-month trip to the Congo, Tanzania, Uganda and Zanzibar. It’s recordings he made in the Great Lakes region that form the basis for much of Mulago Sound Studio. Cardoso creates complex tapestries of sound, exotic musique concrete, where the field recordings are enmeshed with instrumental recordings and samples, creating an exotic hyperreal netherworld. It’s a place where organ drones can easily exist alongside the grunts and groans of animals or sounds like water can be captured and looped mid stream to create a percussive metronomic pulse. Radios can be tuned, preachers can appear mid track, disembodied vocals can drift in, and choirs can coexist with cicadas. It’s an equal opportunity fourth world where it truly feels like anything is permitted.
Cardoso is the head of Discrepant records and has previously recorded under monikers like Gonzo and Papillon utilising similar techniques. Mulago Sound Studio consists of two long form pieces both clocking in at 20 odd minutes each, which despite the frequent integration of new sound sources still manages to maintain a calm unhurried demeanour. There’s humour here via juxtaposition, hysterical B-Movie trailers on the ‘deepest darkest Africa’ drift over the sounds of an authentic African swamp, so in a sense Cardoso is merging the artificial exploitative attempts at the exotic with legitimate exotic recordings he made. The real with the fake to create something in between, or perhaps more than the sum of its parts.
“Africa, known for centuries as the white man’s graveyard,” announces an ominous 1950s voice over abruptly out of the blue.
It’s curious; he goes to so much effort to craft a unique and engaging sound world that these samples or voice over’s actually jar the listener out of the exotic and back into our world. They remind us to some extent by collecting and rearranging his field recordings he is another in a long line of those not only fetishising and exoticsing the continent but also reconstructing it in their own design.
In amongst the sound design there are also short periods of musicality, some wooden percussion or thumb piano before evolving back into a complex multilayered soundscape where footsteps merge with frogs and all manner of unidentified nature. It’s a heady brew. A complex and compelling work of exotic concrete that is not only conscious of its place in the world, but also keen to redevelop its relationship with its source material.