Joana Gama / Luís Fernandes – At The Still Point Of The Turning World (Room40)


Taking its title from T.S. Eliot’s poem ‘Burnt Norton’, the new collaboration by the Portuguese Joana Gama and Luís Fernandes is, above everything else, evoking.

‘Neither Flesh Nor Fleshness’ starts with suspense – a particular temporal gesture that will mark the experience throughout the album, even if it’s not present in every composition. The first shy hints of Joana Gama’s piano play around the feeling of coming back and forth generated by the detailed electronic work of Luís Fernandes.

‘Perpetual Possibility’ opens with sparks of haunting effects that seem to be field recordings, a tense and constant percussion fills the room while the piano repeats three notes that shape the time passing by, as some strings bend and sorrow smoothly. It has different speeds, and a notable lament dialogues with the piano before leaving it alone at the end of the song.

‘The Pattern Is Movement’ turns into our first favourite. It’s something like a collage of memories that seem to come through a distorted radio. Truly oneiric, with whispers that come underwater and turn into a drone experience. Strings and piano seem to unfold and if this is indeed a collection of memoirs, this unfolding represents the most luminous ones, like a warm reminiscence from the good old times that we can only remember through feelings. ‘Through The Vibrant Air’ is a blurry distortion with metallic sounds that feels like a catharsis of the sheer beauty on the previous tune. Eerie elements revolve in the air as the deepness rises and turns absorbing. A rugged texture marks the end of the track.

‘Lucid Stillness’ starts with the piano announcing something, machine knocks appear and mark the time as brief glimpses of beauty emerge like short answers that the piano gives to itself. Then the joy of the violins come back, to say goodbye on a drone that suddenly stops. ‘Shaft Of Sunlight’ is our second favourite of the album. With high notes the piano starts a new conversation with itself, and then a rising set of orchestration and electronic arrangements wrap up this dialogue. It’s touching, until the piano speeds up and fades away.

Born out of a period of mutual loss, the oeuvre of Gama and Fernandes leaves us with a hue of mixed feelings, where the nuance of light and shadows leaks into an overall sensation of gratitude for the pleasure of listening. It’s a remembrance of brightness filtered through the contrast of life. Quoting the same poem that they borrowed their title from: “Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards…”

Commissioned by Westway Lab Festival and co-procuced by Centro Cultural Vila Flor and Câmara Municipal de Guimarães, it has featured Orquestra de Guimarães as the performing ensemble with arrangements by José Alberto Gomes. It was mixed and produced by Lawrence English.

Joana Gama + Luís Fernandes – Through The Vibrant Air from ROOM40 on Vimeo.


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