From David Grubbs
This recording documents Manuel Mota’s and my first public performance as a duo. We had played together previously for a recording session—a relaxed afternoon at Lisbon’s ZDB, where I recall zoning out, guitar in my hands, watching the endless throng of people Sunday-strolling past the plate glass window next to the stage. That deeply pleasurable afternoon session felt like a live accompaniment to a film.
This recording also documents, for the both of us, a first indoor collaborative performance since the beginning of the pandemic. It felt familiar—I do remember how to do these things—and yet upped in its intensity of focus, and afterward that much more imprinted in memory, even prior to sitting down with this recording. It seemed I could have narrated it after the fact, its various twists and turns, which is not often the case for me with improvised concerts, details of which often vanish—to return who knows when—or transform into a series of disconnected impressions.
One of the things that I love about Manuel’s playing is that as a listener I quickly abandon my search for the logics of continuity that apply to most performers. With Manuel I rarely feel that I anticipate the shape of a given phrase in the time of its unfolding—as a duo we’re definitely not finishing one another’s sentences—nor do I sense that I’m tracking larger structures in the making to serve as signposts for the performance as a whole. The two of us first met more than a decade ago, but throughout many conversations we haven’t spent much time speaking analytically about playing, never really compared notes from inside. It’s not that we’ve chosen not to talk about music, or that there’s a barrier or unspoken ideology to doing so. There’s always something else to talk about.
This concert took place in the Biblioteca Municipal of Barreiro, a smaller city to the southeast of Lisbon across the Tejo River estuary. “Na margem sul” means “on the south bank,” and is commonly used to refer to the area south of the Tejo. For a first time returning in many months to playing in an indoor setting, the library seemed an especially welcoming location.