- When they head out on the road, DJ Marfox and his peers in Lisbon's Afro-Portuguese club music scene find themselves in a curious position: they've mostly never heard of the artists they share a bill with. When I visited the city in 2014, I was told that the group's exposure to Western dance music was almost non-existent. Marfox, for instance, was aware of Carl Cox, and that was pretty much it. It's therefore inevitable that as the likes of Marfox, Nigga Fox and Firmeza become internationally established, the flood of new stuff they're exposed to will influence their music.
This shows up on Chapa Quente, Marfox's latest EP for the pioneering Lisbon label Príncipe, and he names a track after one of his experiences. In 2013, he and Nigga Fox played Unsound in Poland, their first on-the-ground exposure to Western club music. On "Unsound," Marfox paints his storming kuduro canvas with darker colours, no doubt responding to the techno acts he caught at the festival. It's a track that's probably been useful in his DJ sets as a moment of gloom, but it's among the least distinctive things he's released. "2685" is much better. Through a buzzing synth lead it initially evokes '90s raves, but a flute line and an onslaught of percussion flip it into one of Marfox's hardest hitting batida jams.
The EP's remaining tracks feel less informed by Marfox's travels, but they show his sound developing in other ways. I thought the synth melody on "Tarraxo Everyday" was so good that it had to be a sample (the label said it isn't). You can play it after the other romantic tarraxo track in Marfox's catalogue, 2014's "Heartbeat," to hear how far he's progressed with this style. Parts of "Cobra Preta" sound familiar, but there are a couple of elements, like the jagged little synth, that swing the tone of the track towards something much stranger. On "Kassumbula," Marfox creates a breakdown by sweeping a filter across the master channel, adding an effective new trick to his arsenal, and on "B18," he overloads the upper mid-range with kalimba and spacey zips. Not every genre will be suitable for absorption into the Lisbon sound, but on Chapa Quente Marfox shows that its expansion will throw up intriguing new shapes.
A3 Tarraxo Everyday
B2 Cobra Preta