~reviewed by Matthew Heilman
Dwelling is an ensemble of expert musicians, hailing from Portugal and first conceived as a solo project by virtuoso guitarist Nuno Roberto. After fleshing out his melodic vision with the help of additional musicians, the band’s first mini CD was released in 2001. “Humana” marks the band’s first full-length release and it is a delicate collection of soothing, organic compositions, built around intricate acoustic guitar work, magnificent violin, and tender female vocals. The atmosphere throughout the disc is warm and encompassing, ethereal in the purest sense. Dwelling admirably turn their collective backs on synthesizers and keyboards and instead opt for a more natural and human sound. What you won’t find here are exaggerated orchestral imitations and other synthetic trappings currently nullifying a good two-thirds of the dark music underground. Instead, you find a lush and exotic album that culls from jazz and classical guitar techniques as well the band’s native Fado traditions, a kind of Portuguese folk ballad.
The group is fronted by Catarina Raposo, a confident alto vocalist whose voice perfectly crowns the strongly ethnic backdrop. Her voice shares a similar ashen quality with both Kari and Ann-Mari, the former vocalists of the 3rd & The Mortal, and I suppose Dwelling shares a bit musically with the Norwegian legends as well. Catalina’s expressive performance is coloured by a bittersweet vulnerability, and her delivery throughout most of the disc is calm and smoky. While I do not dislike her vocals, I was bothered by a number of moments where she seems to sing with a slight detachment, rarely altering the pitch or delivery of her lyrics. After awhile her voice is sort of absorbed into the music. She compliments the music very well, rarely (if at all) distracting from the stately intimacy of the compositions, and that is what matters most when all is said and done. I am just a cranky miser when it comes to female vocalists and I suppose it’s just harder to impress me these days. Ultimately, she is a distinctive and able vocalist, but Dwelling’s real strength lies within the music itself and the subtly dramatic arrangements.
The hypnotic, sweeping acoustic strums and melodic finger picking of the guitars works in perfect unison with Silvia Freitas’ dusky, slithery violin playing. The instruments work in immaculate unison, with equally poignant melodies distributed evenly between them. While most of the disc is relatively tranquil and tender in its dark romanticism, the music is quite active, intricate, mid paced, and there is even a burst of mischievous energy for the album’s closing jig “The Reality That Remains.” The violin work is perhaps what held my attention the most, presenting an admirable balance between traditional neo-classical and ethnic stylings and moodier atmospheric techniques. The manner in which the songs are structured give all of the instruments and vocals ample room to breathe, volleying off of each other and synchronizing in brilliant harmony.
Dwelling was an unexpectedly sophisticated treat, managing to sustain and arrest my attention despite the fact that I have been responding to much more maniacal and frantic, rhythm based music as of late. One must be patient with these compositions, and allow them to over take you. The reward is a dynamic, relaxing release that passively captivates rather than lulls the listener to restless wispy ennui. As I mentioned, fans of 3rd & the Mortal’s early work will appreciate this immensely, as would regular fans of neo-classical and dark folk music. Definitely worth checking out if you are in the need of something progressive and mellow, but not too whacked out with technical showmanship. The talent is here, in both delivery and the consistently sublime atmospheres created.
Dwelling – Official Website:
The Fossil Dungeon:
A Brief Fado / Portuguese Music Resource:
~reviewed by Mick Mercer
The press release marked it all out quite clearly for me, in that this is a group whose work accurately reflects through 'stringed voices' the ethereal./neo-classical fusion of Portuguese musical history, which makes for very relaxing listening. There are some medieval sympathies trapped in the gauzy spirals, you'll be enchanted by the light luscious vocals, and it isn't all in Portugese either which makes the mysteries somewhat easier to deal with.
It's only their second release during a five year existence and comes close to the Heavenly Voices category at times, but stays firmly within traditional boundaries, which holds it back somewhat, because the guitar is often too similar sounding and languid. Even when used as punctuation in slow pieces it doesn't require anything of the listener, and you now what to expect once songs have got underway.
It is exquisitely beautiful and contains songs which throw you into a mood for reflection, as did the recent And Also The Trees album. Oddly, considering I think it is natural to want something more from this style of music than easy background romance, when they did get a bit lively during 'As The Storm Chants' I then found the frivolity strangely irritating because it was such a disruption.
Not the sort of thing I can imagine listening to a lot, but then I'm not the quietest of people. For those who know this genre you will love it, I'm sure.