Heart Beats Slow (release date: May 20, 2016)

Music as catharsis: A Portuguese artist is driven into an existential crisis by the economic woes of his country. Assuasive cascades of electronica show him the way out.

Something about Mira, un Lobo! strikes a poetic nerve in the mavens of our time: US blogger Kavit Sumud (“The Sights and Sounds”, “Indie Shuffle”) is inspired by: “complex electronica, cascading circadian rhythms ... serotonin streams and dopamine dancefloors”. UK blog “Repeat Button” marvels at lush landscapes which are “unbelievably, inexplicably, insanely intoxicating”, finding “synths so sublime I feel like maybe heaven is actually here on earth.”

Once in a while, a record comes along which has the capacity to inspire such elegies. Great art is often born of hard times and the celestial splendour thus described is very much a product of life on terra firma. The Portuguese Luis F. de Sousa knows the harsh realities of life only too well: “Struck by unemployment, crises and depression, we live in hiding, numb, under our sheets, hoping and trying our best to sleep and forget. Mira, un Lobo! allowed me to drift away whilst still being awake, facing adversity, oblivious of any consequences.”

Such cathartic intensity mirrors the influence of artists like Sigur Rós, M83, Julianna Barwick, Sufjan Stevens. As befits such a personal album, de Sousa wrote and recorded the songs at home, alone, unencumbered by schedules or deadlines. What began as a musical diary evolved almost subliminally into a fully fledged album. At this point, de Sousa called up several of his gifted friends ... “to smooth the edges”, as he suggests. Ricardo Fialho co-produced the album, with former band mates from MAU helping out on guitars (Carlos Costa) and backing vocals (Eli Fernandes). One very special guest also made an appearance on the LP: “I used my son’s voice from when he was a baby on one song.”

What better way to give a voice to innocence, to new beginnings? In spite of the near crippling uncertainties of the current economic climate, which has hit Portugal to such visceral effect, the Mira, un Lobos! album offers hope that a better future may not be beyond our reach, if we hold our nerve. Not so much blind escapism as pragmatic perspective, highlighting art’s propensity for rejuvenation and replenishment.

Yes, there is danger (Beware, a Wolf! is the name of the project, after all) but steady your pulse (“Heart Beats Slow” is the album title) and see the wolf for the disarmingly beautiful creature he is. Mira, un Lobo! closes the album with an introduction: “It doesn’t matter where you are. Just put your headphones on, close your eyes and let yourself drift away.”


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