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DJ Nigga Fox: Crânio

DJ Nigga Fox: Crânio

It’s an utterly wonky sound Brandão flexes.

DJ Nigga Fox: Crânio

3 / 5

Thank you Warp records for—sorry—warping minds for nearly three decades now.

Warp were hosts to the pioneers of IDM during the ‘90s and the even weirder subgenres bouncing off of that already brainy subgenre (thanks Autechre). And as the 2010’s came around, they expanded their ventures further, taking in folks who were less within the genre pocket and more interested in Warp’s ideals of adventurous composition. That would explain their signings of Danny Brown and Grizzly Bear. But DJ Nigga Fox might be their most far-flung star yet. The Lisbon-based musician, also known as Rogério Brandão, is a champion of the Batida sound, a genre spawned from Portugal’s African immigrant communities. That’s where Brandão started but, alongside fellow space cadet DJ Marfox, he’s using his wax to experiment more and more.

It’s an utterly wonky sound Brandão flexes. Drums don’t roll, but clatter into each other like an unorganized cutlery ware drawer in an earthquake. The hooks are as atonal as they are unpredictable. Opener “Sinistro” doesn’t even have a proper earworm until the song only has a minute left. But that’s Brandão’s plan. This is dancehall inspired music, sure, but it’s all built for climax, sweet moments of release you have to work to. The backing vocal line on “Poder do Vento” slips in and out of the song’s tempo at random, suddenly drifting off into its own world before snapping back awake and joining the watery synths. “Vento,” like “Sinistro” only assumes its final form, a bonkers, clicking-drum-and-keyboard breakdown that recalls Drexciya, at the three-minute mark.

And that dichotomy is the key issue with Crânio. It nearly seems more like a thought exercise than a set of tracks meant to get you on the floor. Sure, there are moments of rump-shaking madness (bass belches of “Maria Costa” are the best example) but Brandão isn’t reaching for the average drop. Instead he’s teasing out the sound, searching in its nooks and crannies for strange mutations that he can smash together. Some of these songs would absolutely kill with a proper subwoofer, but as a headphones listen, or even for an impromptu dance-off, Brandão goes off on too many baffling tangents.

Still, there are moments that make it clear why Warp signed him. “KRK” is a great piece of Aphexian lunacy, the spacy synths of closer “Karma” are hilarious and “WAABA-JAH” is a legitimate banger, though one in the Hudson Mohawk mode rather than Daft Punk. “WAABA-JAH” ends up being the album’s main hit, a fairly brutal, twitchy beast, best played at 5 AM when only the true maniacs are still on the floor.

And that seems to be what Brandão is aiming for. He wants to pluck at his own sound and everyone else can leave him alone, except for the true believes that want this sort of shuddering music to course through their blood.

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