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Normal Nada The Krakmaxter
Tubo de Ensaio Skye Butchard , February 14th, 2024 09:02

A true original in the Lisbon club scene returns with another collection of wild and unruly dance tunes, writes Skye Butchard

What does ‘psychedelic’ mean? As a descriptor, it’s been flattened by years of boring bands doing 60s nostalgia. But it should mean more than guitars with phaser pedals and guys who got into tie-dying bandanas during lockdown. Just look at Afro-Portugese producer Normal Nada The Krakmaxter, a true eccentric of the already singular Lisbon batida scene. His beats embody the psychedelic potential of music. His use of drone and cyclical repetition locks you in a trance, until you question time itself. Familiar rhythms become surreal and stretched, removed from their context. By reshaping the building blocks of kuduro, tarraxhina and other West African dance traditions, he pulls the listener between past and future.

“I am the real PAT [Psychedelic African Trance] Inventor”, he declares on Tube de ensaio (‘test tube’), a new surprise record for Nyege Nyege. It’s a year since he gave us Tribal Progressive Heavy Metal, a raucous collection that resembles metal more in attitude than literally. Normal Nada is still making batida, just pushed to its natural extremes and expanded to fit his personality.

He’s a master of tension-as-release. Tracks bubble until you click that you’re already at the destination. You sink into an intricate loop. Because of that focus on tension, it’s surprising to hear him give us such a jubilant chord progression on opener ‘Batida 19’, albeit one told through broken sounds, buzzsaw synths and brutish drum programming.

‘AF House 3’ plays with giddy vocal sampling and references to Afro house. It’s free and light, which isn’t often a palette you hear from Normal Nada. It brings a freshness and exuberance to a record that’s keen to explore without genre limitations. On the latter half of the track, muted voices talk in conversation under the beat, as looped singing, hums and screams of ecstasy bob around the mix.

‘Batida 1’ instead creates chills with stark midi piano stabs, which crackle and clip as they hit. Like the forbears of this style, Normal Nada reveals the texture and depth in rudimentary sounds, when working within an often functional style of club music.

‘Tarraxinha Sapotico’ connects the dots between ragga and tarraxinha. It’s responsible for the records eeriest moment, when a rare melody appears, almost subliminally, from the back of the mix, before disappearing. And then, we finish on ‘Pika Chu’, a freestyle batida tune named after a video game rodent, almost to remind you that you’re listening to fun party music. It’s party music that lingers with you, connects dots you hadn’t noticed, and expands your world a little more.