Living with João Bispo’s album Todo este Tempo (“all this time” in Portuguese) over the past few months has been both rewarding and frustrating.
Rewarding in that the moments of emotion it contains haven’t diminished after repeated listens, and frustrating because it’s not an easy work to get your head around and parcel up in a short review.
Todo este Tempo is Bispo’s eighth release
Todo este Tempo is the eighth release from the Lisbon-based multi-instrumentalist, and Bispo agrees that the album is “eclectic and experimental, shifting pace and style, sometimes in an abrupt manner”.
He says the work explores “how passion, love, anxiety, and hope have the ability to mold [my relationship with time] through my perception and personal experience”.
The album opens with promise, multi-tracked reverb rippling out and over a chilly horizon and into the second song, Temperatura ambiente.
There’s surprise and delight as Bispo sings over a gently plucked acoustic. He sings with a confessional intimacy through soulful melody.
Far above, descending notes on electric guitar echo the chiming post-punk of Interpol or Crystal Stilts, and this gives nostalgic sentiment a keener edge.
When this song blurs into a six-minute interlude of sweeping, mournful strings shot through with plucked mandolin, I’m deep into Bispo’s world.
Then jaunty mandolins and a fuzzy, spiky lead on Bailas nos meus olhos leap in over snare and kick drum, and a contemplative mood dissolves in an instant. The gloomy, distorted bass and tense guitar that follow on Cocega a sede now feels oppressive, which is a shame, as this song in isolation doesn’t evoke the same reaction.
With Tragédias momentâneas da carne, the album regains its footing, layering angular chords over a drum and bass figure that builds toward a post-rock-style climax.
Seventh track Seja seems a more upbeat variation of the ideas expressed in Temperatura ambiente, and Bispo’s vocal and melodic gifts are a welcome return.
Album centerpiece Caminho de olhos postos em ti (todo este Tempo) combines ambient post-rock grandeur in another slow-builder. It’s a powerful song when it unleashes, feeling like a climax to the album, but there’s more to come.
The mood calms in the reflective Memórias de sonhos por fruir: this mixture of gentle Portuguese sung over piano and chiming guitars seems to be a key motif on this album, and it works really well.
Gears change into A Terra ribomba, a defiant and uplifting burst of reverb fuzz strung out over a restless (and charmingly untidy) drum beat. This contrast picks up the narrative thread we somehow lost earlier in the record, and if album closer Querer-te were to follow it here, with its sense of resignation and acceptance, the song would feel like the album’s fulcrum.
There are moments of transcendence on Todo este Tempo
Instead, the 10-minute Todo este Tempo criado em Nós – Reprise offers almost five minutes of meandering guitar atmosphere before coalescing into familiar build-and-release post-rock structure.
João Bispo has enviable talent. There are moments of transcendence on Todo este Tempo, where influences melt into something fresh and immersive.
However, if the intention is to take the listener on a journey with a beginning, middle, and end, I think Todo este Tempo would benefit from the deletion of a couple of songs (perhaps a bonus disc of material?).
This would enhance a rich, vivid, and absorbing album into something ready for the toughest test… time.