DJ Nervoso is hailed as one of the founding figureheads in Lisbon’s Afro-Portuguese scene. An original member of the DJs Do Guetto collective who have pioneered kuduro, batida and tarraxinha sounds since 2005, the likes of DJ Firmeza, DJ Marfox and all the ‘-foxes’ named thereafter point to him as a figure of inspiration. It is thus with great anticipation that this self-titled debut solo EP is finally released, finding a home on the capital’s own Príncipe. Featuring new creations and older unreleased tracks which span over fifteen years of his work, Nervoso’s complex yet raw syncopations demonstrate in six sharp tracks why he is the godfather of this scene.
Distinct from some of his contemporaries whose own styles of kuduro whirl around at 140BPM, DJ Nervoso dwells in a more nonchalant realm. Nodding to the sultriness of tarraxinha, cuts like Ah Ah and Kuia reel the tempo back to a heightened effect, and though pace picks up back to a more typical speed elsewhere on the EP an overall sense of effortlessness is unshakable. Sirens open the album on the most rhythmically frenetic track Vuto, and yet these layers of drums are constructed so subtly. As on 27aca, the raw steely percussion is somewhat subdued by hypnotically bouncing wobbles, these underwater mutations pulling the centre of gravity down low and slow.
Nervoso’s musical personality is stamped all over, opting for the warm dynamism of the human voice over the buzzing abrasive synths on the likes of Marfox’s 2685. ‘Eeh’s puncture the clanging percussions on Avacs, whistles wobble over the near-industrial hisses and snares of Djj, and standalone cut Ah Ah is strung together with, well, ‘ah’s. It’s as if the record itself has grown limbs and - like the album artwork by Márcio Matos - is stumbling and tumbling and shaking and jolting over these masterfully crafted rhythms. The beats may be seriously commanding, but there’s not much else serious about this release.
It’s not hard to understand Príncipe when they say they ‘can’t stress enough the joy and beauty of finally releasing an EP by [this] scene originator’. Charmingly minimal and arrestingly rhythmic, DJ Nervoso is a barefaced dancefloor classic.
Words: Josie Roberts
Photography: Marta Pina