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Ana Lua Caiano
Vou ficar neste quadrado
Review by Martha Willette Lewis


cd cover Portuguese singer, songwriter and musician Ana Lua Caiano’s first record has a narrative bent with each song acting as a short story. By turns melodic and cacophonous, she offers a pleasing debut. The whole project has a rich mix of layered sounds, experimental singing, and electronic music which plays with modern and traditional conventions.

Vou ficar neste quadrado is, by its tone and content, clearly the product of Covid lockdown, a reflection of isolation, creatively keeping oneself company and carefully working away electronically. Strata of audio morsels are manipulated by Caiano, pushing the edges of what can be done by one person, and stressing tech and editing over live group dynamics. Caiano plays, sings and does almost everything on the recording herself. There is a sharp focus on detail and a modestly scaled world that feels very apt for the lockdown moment it was born in.

Like Fiona Apple’s (self-produced in her kitchen) Fetch The Bolt Cutters, Caino used the time to experiment, perhaps complete something that was a long time brewing and ultimately do-it-herself. This is the creative upside to such an enforced hiatus- the gift of time. The sounds here are not wholly new. I think of Bjork, Laurie Anderson, Tom Waits. These elements are well trodden under the rubric ‘experimental” and some of it echoes musical solutions of other performers confronted with the limitations imposed by lockdown. As I write this, I am still pondering the aftershocks of confinement, the commonalities of the whys and what’s constructed by the collective reverberation of shutting down the world, and the aesthetics produced by such measures. Because one thing is clear: a lot of art was being made, a lot of projects got to be completed, and a lot of creative introspection was happening.

All of which is not to say it does not sound fresh. This is a thoughtful and witty album, a nice fizzy aural sorbet for summer. It whirrs, ticks, clicks, buzzes, floats and croons through tunes which are hummable, but are even better with the lyrics. The narrative, short-story nature of Vou ficar neste quadrado seems very much of it’s era, with this generation’s artists very much focused on personal, intimate moments in an disconnected world, assuming a character and a place. Mood and atmospherics are at the service of the mini-plots which in turn are more like mental ramblings. We are momentarily plunged into her head. This is clearly a hallmark of the internet, which favors brief, rich moments of intimacy, and confession, fleetingly and endlessly replaced in a relentless flow of storylets and personalities. All of the songs feature a minute focus and claustrophobic attention to detail, pushed to extremes by the pandemic.


The song "O bicho anda por aí " (The creature is out there) features a nebulous monster roaming outdoors. The catchy percussive title track (I shall stay in this square)which is all about internalizing limited square footage and plays with the fear of going beyond ones small zones of comfort:

So, I’ll be careful, I shall stay in this square
But all I wanted, all I wanted, was my dear mom
It would be cruel, would be cruel, otherwise I’d go away
I feel that you are not listening, not listening, nor coming my way
I’m certain that you are not coming here to be close to me.

Also: "Cansada" (I’m tired)

I’m tired of always seeing the same room,
The same mattress,
And the same side of this street
I’m tired of not leaving this tent
Of paying the same rent,
I wanted the other side of the coin


And then, "Ando em círculos" (I walk in circles)

In the morning your square steps wake me up and in a straight line
In a straight line they lead me to the table And I sit down vertically

"Os meus sapatos não tocam nos teus" (My shoes don’t touch yours) is a lamentation for being physically apart but mentally intertwined in thought and dream; a song of longing and loneliness.


My favorite song on the album, "Que belo dia para sair" (A nice day to go outside), compares nature to industrial and mechanical sites in the landscape, cleverly turning the tables and evoking Oscar Wilde’s statement in the Decay of Lying that "Nature imitates art” by insisting that the organic provides a romantic reminder of the industrial, as in:

Big insects up in the sky
Buzz like airplanes, Ducks quacking in the middle of the road,
Sound just like cars
The smell of flowers on the sidewalk,
Recalls the factory smoke,
The seaweed wandering in the river,
Are black like oil,
Colourful flowers growing,
Emulate, emulate cans
Fish swimming on the sea,
Mimic water bottles
It's beautiful and surreally funny.

This is an album echoing the life of the mind, and Caiano makes it clear these are not auto-biographical but rather imagined scenarios. Covid lockdown aesthetics have created an intense mass exploration of the limits of space coupled with deep introspection about the doings of others. Given access to social media, much of the isolation is at once physical with the odd ability to immediately jack in to the highly-personal-yet-collective-unconscious that is the web, in all of its howling and relentless hunger for confessional detail. At once a sea of voices with momentary up-close and personal tet-a-tets with the souls swimming in its depths.

As a work of art this album has a fine structured integrity, and follows a crystal-clear concept from start to finish. It is a brilliant product of reacting to the zeitgeist, The results of which echo and reverberate all around us. It is deeply satisfying in that way, but the rules of the game also hobble it, given it a "known” quality which is that the technology itself is limiting.

For her next album, I would love to see things opened up to ensemble playing of live instruments and to the kinds of surprising things that happen with improvisation. I would like to hear her released from confinement and the anxieties of lockdown, to run, whinnying with us, in the wider world with the open window of liveness and accident at play.

Find the artist online.

Further listening:
Ann O'aro - Bleu
Maria Mazzotta - Onde
Luzmila Carpio - Inti Watana: El Retorno del Sol
Faraualla - Culla E Tempesta

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