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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Lineas Albies - The coolest act from Madrid

“The certainty of chance” is by far the best song by The Divine Comedy, a song where they have brought the epic sound of emotion to a new level. But this text is not about them. I am just using the title of that track to acknowledge the fact that in life we are always, by chance or by hazard, coming across things that will be there forever with you – friends and great songs. The case of Lineas Albies and their respective members, Marieta and Pablo, falls within this category. I first met Marieta in Madrid during the Madrid Fashion Week where she was, for sometime, the perfect host for the international press gathering in Madrid twice a year to attend the fashion shows. There she was, beautiful and with a style of her own. She was there on the front row but she belonged in the catwalk. We started talking and I soon realized we had pretty much in common. We were both fascinated by a certain love of the underground and of some trends, especially in music. Little did I know that she was pretty active on the music front. The next day she invited us to visit a club in Madrid where she and her boyfriend would be deejaying that night. We took to the Malasaña district and minutes after entering Oui it felt like home. The crowd was great, friendly and cool and the bar owners knew what they were doing - Oui was the perfect club in town.

But the best was yet to come. There were sounds in the air that you couldn’t find anymore in most clubs, and after hearing one of my favourite tracks by the Shriekback, I decided that that was my club. After ordering a drink I took to the area was a black-haired guy in red pants preparing a DJ session. Tom Tom Club, Cabaret Voltaire, Lene Lovich, Talking Heads, B 52’s, Bowie, Brian Eno PIL but also great names such as Gary Numan, Alan Vega, The Residents, Yello, some of the best altenative German sounds from Andreas Dorau, DAF, Liaisons Dangereuses and modern sounds from acts such as Justice, Two Lone Swordsmen, Deat From Above, Cansei de Ser Sexy, Cobra Killers or chilean band Panico – the men was a living encyclopedia of modern music and it was as if he had gone through my record collection and was now playing them all. Now and then a tall girl whose hair reminded a character from a Enki Bilal’s comics would approach him a whisper to his ear after which she would dance in her graciously wild manner next to him. The two were brilliant and their music taste a refined one and no wonder they did such good music. The knew all the bands I loved and I was even more astonished when they mentioned that the writer Amos Tutuola, the guy who wrote the book "My Life In the Bush of Ghosts" and which had inspired the seminal record by Byrne/Eno.  The little stage at Oui where Lineas Albies were deejaying was always a crowded one. Everyone wanted to talk to them, to kiss them, embrace them, say hi and the bar owner had to constantly ask people to come down. They were indeed a loved and a lovely pair, both friendly and with a refined music taste. I have danced the whole night and for two year this was my club in Madrid and Lineas have become my favourite Spanish act.

The next day, I wanted to find out more about these two, who, aside from deejaying, had also their own band. I turned my computer and visited their page on MySpace. I was astonished. They had wonderful songs and an astonishing body of visual work. “Double Captain Sensitive” from their album “Taxidermista” was the video that first caught my attention – a great guitar sound and Pablo and Marieta delivering the perfect vocals. After hearing “Relaxico Espilibidoso” I said to myself “this song will go directly to my playlist right next to my favourite album of all times, “My life in the Bush of ghosts” by Brian Eno/David Byrne. And it reminded me also of “Caes de Crómio” a superb track by a Portuguese band called Mão Morta . Lineas were from Madrid but they could have come from London, Berlin, Lisbon or New York. I knew they would fit perfectly in the Lisbon scene and I did not give yet the idea of bringing them to Lisbon. With such great sounds and look I grew addicted to their sound. It was great to know a band with a wide-ranging set of references coming from Madrid, Spain, a country were the national music is often to much self-centered in their own culture. These guys deserved the world and Madrid was too small for them, plus they had the advantage of singing in English. The world is not fair and TV channels did not know what they were missing for not airing something as fabulous as their video “Lucky Town”. In this video you can clearly see that image is also a relevant part of their work. They concert flyers were considered true works of art to such an extent that they were asked to show them in one of Moscows most important modern art museums.

After many visits to Madrid one day they gave me the privilege of being one of the first to listen to their first album in Spanish. I took to their place right in the centre of Madrid to hear the record which could assure their breakthrough in the Spanish speaking world. “Album Rosa” is a beautiful pop album with great danceable songs like “Chica Chica Boom, “No pares de Danzar”, or the filigree-like “Delirios de dignidad”. “El Cuervo, nunca mas” is a fine track of wild electro. These days Lineas Albies are living in Mexico. They felt the need to expand their horizons. That wish was already there in the song “Experiencias Nuevas”. Writing is Spanish was a wise move, but I hope they deicide to sing some songs in English. They are now conquering the new world with their sounds and I do hope to see them in the major music festivals delivering their wild show and proving that they are one of the best things that has come out of Spain in recent times, mastering pop, rock, electro, video, art and, above all, staging ravaging shows. Listen to “No ha mas” and you will understand what I mean.
And follow their advise in "Un Cuento Delirante" - "life is delirious... jump, fight, fuck, sing".
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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How I miss the imperfect world

The world has become a boring place to be. Regulation after regulation, law after law, life on Earth is losing taste and citizens now resemble packs of zombies with no will of their own. Everything is being done to preserve the health of nations and to defend the harmless peoples from those who like to inflict harm on themselves..and on the others. In summary, they are trying to make perfect model citizens.

You have certainly realized by now that I am not referring to speed limits, house insulation or the implementation of democratic regimes and that this text has more to do with smoking and other mean habits such as expelling smoke indoors, drinking lagers or spitting in the street. As for the latter, forget it - that is something truly obnoxious. As for beer, I prefer wine and whisky these days. As for smokes, well, you’ve guessed. I do love smoking. And I love travelling to places where I can enjoy a cigarette before, in-between meals and after having a delicious expresso. Which brings me to the reason why I am writing this. I am currently in Barcelona, just one hour and a half away from Lisbon by plane and if there is something I like about Catalonia and the whole of Spain is the art of parties. These people smoke like maniacs, drink as if there was no tomorrow and apparently never sleep. Coming to this country has always been a synonym of partying and I have always admired the guts of this country. Up until now, 26 days after a hefty smoking band in the whole of Spain. I am now writing this in a hotel room, having a cigarette and running the risk of being sued (or arrested for that matter) for smoking indoors. A couple of hours ago, I was having dinner in a hype party full of cool people from fashion and arts. The food was great, the drinks generous as usual, but there was something missing and hence the best way was to avoid engaging in long conversations. I do not mind long conversations but there is nothing worse than a glass of wine without a cigarette. Therefore, the best way is to cut your’s and other’s stories short as you need to go out and have a cigarette. After a while me and some friends decided the best thing to do was to leave. We have arranged to meet again, but in the Algarve while we still can have a smoke in some bars in that region. Paris, New York, London and Milan were once good party towns. And so were Madrid and Barcelona. But for smokers like me the only reason to travel to these destinations will be work or to visit truly good friends. If I want to party, and that includes having a meal or a drink and a smoke, the I rather stay in Lisbon or take to Berlin, two cities still freed from these dictatorial prohibitions and where you are still allowed to be an imperfect human. As for the aforementioned cities, well forget, at least in the winter. I will come backfor leisure only in the summer. I only hope they will not got that far as to forbid smoking in street cafes too.
Should you have a different opinion, don't bother. I know what you are going to say. Hence, if you want non-smoker solidarity I kindly urge you to refer to another blog. Yours sincerely....

Monday, January 10, 2011

Carlos Carlos - the limelight played a strange trick on him

Portugal woke up shocked on the morning of Saturday the 8th of January - Carlos Castro, a renowned Portuguese journalist had been murdered in a hotel in New York.

The details are everywhere on the Internet and in the media and I do not wish to go into further detail. The man who helped so many people in Portugal reach stardom, who praised and criticised so many people, is now everywhere for the worst reasons - victim of a brutal murder.

Carlos Castro was a regular presence in the major fashion shows in Portugal and whenever the Portuguese designers took to the Parisian catwalks. His presence was always a pleasant and funny one and his seat was always there on the first row. He was a very polite person and I and some journalists had the pleasure of enjoying his presence and laughing and sharing some meals with him during Moda Lisboa and Portugal Fashion. The last one was in Oporto, in October, during the Portugal Fashion shows. We were a small group of five, sitting outside a small restaurant in downtown Oporto and what struck me was the respect everyone showed for him. Taxi drivers recognised him, the ladies passing by smiled at him, some said hello and the tourists wondered why everyone smiled at this man on his 60's. "That's is why I love Oporto. People are always very kind to me in this city", he said that day. But New York was the city he loved and moments before arriving at the restaurant, he told us how happy he was as he was planning a short holiday in New York, the city he loved so much.

Carlos loved the limelight, the glitter and the showbiz and New York was the place to go, to see the plays on Broadway. Born in Angola, he was a passionate writer and knew everyone in the showbiz in Portugal. One of his biggest initiatives was the Transvestite Gala, a show held every year on the 1st of December on World Aids Day and whose proceedings were destined to help the fight against AIDS. Carlos Castro has never hidden his homosexuality and was well aware of the problems faced by the gay community. He was also aware of the ups and down of transvestites, having written a book about Ruth Briden, one the major names in transvestite shows in Portugal. Theatre, painting, music, fashion were his passions. Women also played an important role in his life and his latest book was about the women he loved so much. "The women who marked in my life" is a passionate book about some of the most remarkable women of the 20th Century - Romy Schneider, the fado singer Amália Rodrigues, Grace Kelly, Camen Miranda... The foreword to this book was written by Maria Barroso, former Portuguese fist lady and someone he truly admired as she was also a woman passionate about art and literature.

Carlos Castro was a renowned personality in Portugal, known for his generosity and admired and/or feared for telling and writing what crossed his mind. He had numerous friends. But he had also some enemies. Sharp and witty, some of his articles were sometimes too poignant for Portugal. He could praise or sharply criticise someone as he knew well the life of the Portuguese social elite. In recent years his pen was not that sharp and I remember telling him: "You are becoming too soft". His reply was "I am getting tired, I just want to write about the things I am passionate about. I want to focus on the books I am writing about the women I admire", he said one day before taking the train from Lisbon to Oporto. I now remember that train journey, four journalists sharing a table on a train, Carlos Castro fascinated by his new gadget - an iPhone he was still learning how to work with. Given his privileged liaisons in all corners of Portuguese society he was often contacted by people aspiring stardom. "I have all these young people coming at me but I have to say no. I do not have the stamina anymore", he once told me. "I can't make it to clubs until late in the night. I do not have the patience for that." But sometimes, the very same man who wrote the book "Crowded Solitude", did not resist the appeal of love.