December 6, 2011

A Reader's Gut Reaction: Sarcasmo - Noites Calmas, Dias Felizes (July 2011)

(Marking only the second Reader Review contribution from a female (come on, I know you're out there, make your voices heard!), today's diversion comes from Portuguese hip hop blogger (check out her other work here) and music critic Joana Nicolau, who submits her write-up on Sarcasmo's Noites Calmas, Dias Felizes, which is slightly altered from her original review, which can be found online, in that it follows HHID's track-by-track format. Enjoy, and leave some thoughts for her below.)

Sarcasmo is a Portuguese MC from the north of Portugal who nowadays spends most of his time in Paris, France. He is a member of a group called AVC, alongside Haka, Spasm and DJ Profail. However, this biographic detail does not tell you much about his music.

If you have heard Sarcasmo’s work in AVC or are already familiar with him in general. you should not expect anything similar to pop up on his this first solo EP, Noites Calmas, Dias Felizes. Where the Sarcasmo in AVC was a witty, hedonistic little package made up of punchlines, the Sarcasmo who released this EP is another animal entirely. Sure, you can still find punchlines; sure, there’s still plenty of wordplay. But there’s something more, something that comes from the deepest, darkest places of the human soul, where it rots and withers and cultivates false hope.

That’s what Noite Calmas, Dias Felizes is all about. The apparently innocuous title of the EP, which translates to Quiet Nights, Happy Days, couldn’t be more deceiving. Each track has its own essence and its own atmosphere, mainly due to the diversity of the beats and the richness of the lyrics.

Let’s take a closer look at each track.

1. INOXIDÁVEL
You won’t have to understand Portuguese to jump up from your chair at the sheer head-nodding quality of this track. Produced by Sickonce, this beat leaves one wondering what else he can do in terms of faster-paced joints.

2. COMO UM SONHO
If you’re one of those people who enter into a romantic relationship fully aware of how it’s going to end, you’ll find that this track hits close to home. “Como um Sonho” quite faithfully represents the constant push-and-pull of the empty promises we kind of wish were true, the “forevers” that lasts only a day, and the happiness we want for the other but can’t even provide for ourselves. As Sarcasmo says, “Love burns and sex heals”. The beat was produced by the amazing Infestus.

3. CASA DO POVO (FEAT. HAKA & SPASM)
Like what you heard so far? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. “Casa do Povo” presents you with yet another persona from Sarcasmo’s repertoire, one that revels on how hopelessly degrading and auto-destructive humanity can be. The title comes from a typical Portuguese form of association, the “casa do povo”, which is a community space for the poor, old and those in need. It is also where the poor, old and those in need gather to drink, smoke and gamble their way into an early grave, which is described by Sarcasmo and his AVC mates Haka and Spasm over a hardcore production by Zim.

4. CÁRMEN
“Cármen” is not really spoken word and not really your regular rap song: it lies something in between. Everyone says karma is a bitch...well, so is the titular “Cármen”. Throughout the track, you’ll find yourself wondering which of the two Sarcasmo is addressing, and you’re free to decide for yourself. Either way, you’ll end up agreeing with his point of view. The beat was produced by Mojo.

5. NOITES CALMAS, DIAS FELIZES
I won’t lie; this is my favorite track out of the bunch. It’s a perfect mix of heartfelt flow, heart-tearing lyrics, and a soul-wrenching beat (produced by DarkSunn). It’s everything we enjoy in ourselves and hate in everyone else – arrogance, irrevocable egoism, merriment at other’s misery, self-destructive isolation, failing at life and taking pride in it – you name it, it’s there. Even if you don’t understand a single word of the lyrics, just listen to the emotion behind the voice and to the way the flow conquers the beat, and you’ll at least have an enjoyable experience, if not a full-fledged eargasm.

6. SOMBRA
Are you still with me? If you are, take a deep breath because “Sombra” is another journey into the core of what makes us human. Sarcasmo paints beautiful, if somewhat sad, images with exquisite word choices, from setting his life on fire to falling asleep wishing to never wake up again. One ends up divided between pity and sympathy. The beat was produced by Deloise.

(The following track is only available on the limited edition version of the album.)

7. O MONSTRO
One of the most addicting love songs you’ll ever hear., mostly because it’s not so much about love as it is about seduction, dependence, denial, vicious circles and hopelessness, and an unhealthy dose of both self-commiseration and contempt just to complete the package. Bottom line, everything you’ve ever felt, from “I know I’m an asshole” to “nothing I can do about it”. Again, the theme and the beat (produced by Mojo) are a match made in heaven, even if Sarcasmo and the rest of the people in his life are not.

THE LAST WORD: In conclusion, I have to say that Sarcasmo's Noites Calmas, Dias Felizes was one of the few Portuguese works that I got quite excited over during the first semester of 2011. All in all, it’s a diversified album where Sarcasmo shows that (a) he can rap over some very different kinds of instrumentals (“Inoxidável” vs. “Sombra” vs. “Casa do Povo”, for instance), and (b) he's one of the top five Portuguese emcees who not only owns a brain, but actually uses it while writing lyrics. The clever way in which he explores complex emotions and the elegance with which he portrays them is as rare as his obvious knack for choosing amazing instrumentals. Keep your ears on this one. Although you can download the album for free from the No Karma label website, you should definitely buy this one, as the final song, “O Monstro”, is only available on compact disc format.

- Joana Nicolau

(Questions? Comments? Concerns? Leave your thoughts below.)

10 comments:

  1. interesting post!
    so anyway, max, you gotta review Of Mexican Descent at some point, 2mex and xololanxinxo are just insanely creative and its a shame they only had one album as a group

    ReplyDelete
  2. "Marking only the second Reader Review contribution from a female"

    Which was the first?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ana Luisa AlcantaraDecember 06, 2011

    Hello there. Much respect to Joana, but lets be real for a minute. Sarcasmo is a good emcee, but he's NOT one of the best five Portuguese emcees. He isnt. You guys that owner this site, please, make reaviews about albuns you UNDERSTAND what the mcs are sayin cause then happens this: a bad review by someone that is not a music critic. She's just a girl with a site that likes hiphop. and thats all.

    Anyway, congrats for the site.

    ReplyDelete
  4. is there an instrumental ep for this anywhere?

    ReplyDelete
  5. @ Werner - There's a write-up for Jay-Z's The Black Album from Lil' Venki, who identified herself as a female reader when she sent in the submission.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hello Ana Luisa,

    I totally respect your opinion, but you need to get your facts straight.

    1) Who decides if I'm a music critic or not? You can argue that I'm not a journalist and you would be right. But I do review albuns and have been doing so for a long time. So I am a music critic. Just not a journalist and I never claimed to be that.

    2) Where do I say that he's one of the best 5 Portuguese mcs? Let me quote that for you: "(...) he's one of the top five Portuguese emcees who not only owns a brain, but actually uses it while writing lyrics."

    No one is arguing being the best. I didn't say he was one of the best 5 Portuguese MC's. I said he's on the top 5 of MCs who write very intelligent lyrics, not only in terms of word play but also emotionally intelligent. Of course, it is only my opinion.

    3) Everything I write has a dose of personal experience / view / feeling. You may not agree with it and that's fine. But just because you don't agree doesn't mean I'm wrong and you're right. In fact, I don't believe in such things as being wrong or right in music tastes.

    If you don't agree, argue your point. Which MCs do you think are better than him? Which albuns, which tracks? Why? What is Sarcasmo lacking in this album that makes it not worthwhile to listen? Etc. That way people will be able to decide for themselves and even find out more about Portuguese Hip Hop.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Bob - As far as I know there isn't, but you can contact the author directly and ask him through this email: info [AT] nokarmarecs [DOT] com.

    ReplyDelete
  8. great post

    ReplyDelete
  9. @Ana Luisa Alcantara

    a music critic is just someone who is well known for voicing their opinion...other than that theyre no different from u and i

    ReplyDelete
  10. good review by the way ;)

    ReplyDelete