Pedro Magina is a Barcelona based synth player originally from Portugal, where he was active in several projects, eventually forming Aquaparque with friend and collaborator André Abel — Abel was active throughout the early 2000s and his other duo, Tropa Macaca, had their last outing via Software Recordings in 2012. Magina’s solo music is far-sighted, tending toward abstract soundscapes and adventurous digression. This work felt very at home on labels like Not Not Fun, Ruralfaune, and Mental Groove. His new album, ’11,’ has a different focus and a little more heft thanks to its origins, recorded while his family moved from Lisbon to Barcelona and he shared a rehearsal space with Tropa Macaca, Gala Drop, and Panda Bear.
’11’ is Magina’s fourth solo album and his first to make heavier use of vocals, following on several years of exclusively instrumental excursions; experimental synth work with a New Age tinge. If you drop into the album at random, you’ll hear an understated synth-pop album with a distinctly Portuguese, even Iberian, flavor — but there’s a sweep and shared focus to these tracks that sounds wholly new. ’11’ is about involvement, though the tilt in that direction may contrast with older releases that were exciting for their imaginative sense of detachment. For Magina, the scale here is a reflection of his status as a young father, in between realities, and as an artist with choices.
The same sense of whimsy and diverse production that animates his older releases still draws the listener in, but there’s no simple roving between topics, and few straight lines between up and down. For much of ’11,’ emotions hang on the voice; “Hold My Hand Now” is confident and breezy until Pedro’s voice draws it upward into one of the album’s most memorable crescendos, while a distressed vocal sample and somber keys in “Ponta Do Sol” make the track feel almost scary, or at least discomfiting. Others balance the new vocal element against Pedro’s keys, like “Valentina” or “On Our Way Back Home,” where synth and voice share a trajectory.