Music Review: Marcel Carmago Funks A Puzzle

Last night I went to the Blue Whale in Little Tokyo (directly across from the LADWP in Weller Court / 3rd Floor) to hear Marcel Carmago’s set of musical puzzles.  The Blue Whale opened discreetly a while back and has slowly picked up traction as a place run by true patrons of the arts.  Marcel was set up in the main performance area surrounded by pedals and microphone stands.  I got there just after he had started and what followed was a combination of beauty, humility, and rhythmic interactions that might serve well to be a philosophy for society.

Marcel hails from Brazil, a land that conjures all things sensory and delicious.  Think of the women, the cigars, the grilled delights.  I don’t think of the women, not too much except to be jealous of their tans, but the meat!  The meat!  It has flavor, soul, just the right seasoning, and a long tradition of good timing.

Hence, Marcel.

Very simply explaining the ideas behind the pieces we would hear, he played a series of compositions based on different principles of rhythmic development.  He demonstrated a series of straightforward hand claps that evolved through addition, to illustrate how you could “build something from nothing, basically.”  Unlike some loop-based music which gathers force through layering and density and tight syncing, Marcel’s approach was about another kind of listening and matching, not playing to a downbeat, but more to whatever was already happening.  Filling in the spaces in between.  Finding the right response.

The results were unique and wonderful.  In one piece, the pedals were used to arrange the music live–into sections and small movements that were epic and lyrical.  In another, he created a beautiful lattice of melancholy harmonics that showed a completely different way of things holding together.  And then, of course, there were the one man bass  / breath / guitar / funk jams that had people howling from the rear of the room.   These would usually start with Marcel carrying the beat in his body before a sound came out.  But those sounds, they did come out.

I’ve known Marcel to play pop / rock sets that were completely improvised and be able to find a way to contribute creative / original ideas without creating mayhem.   After this show I felt like I had been privy to the underlying workings of his musical mind.

By listening carefully and responding quickly. . . he can make a handshake with just one hand.

If that doesn’t make sense to you, catch his next show.

Ba dum


Blue Whale | 123 Astronaut E.S. Onizuka St., No. 301, Weller Court Plaza, Third Floor L.A., CA 90012 | (213) 620-0908.