Quick Catch-Up: Marcos Cabral

02.09.13 Words by: Aimee Cliff

True to its name, 'False Memories' – Marcos Cabral's debut album for  L.I.E.S. – comes from a hazy half-remembered place long ago. Back in 1998, when living in an upstate New York loft, Marcos Cabral began experimenting with a "primitive wav. looping program called Acid" and a "crappy Roland MC-303." The results, which range from straight-up thundering techno to real weirdo noise, were recorded on a 90 minute cassette which then languished in a basement for nearly 15 years.

Listening to it today, the album thunders with a bare-faced enthusiasm totally at odds with the shadowy story of its origins. Wearing its influences on its sleeve, ‘False Memories’ begins with a happily murky dub-techno track that recalls the soothing, spacious loops of Basic Channel, if Basic Channel’s engineer had a penchant for cranking, distorting and muddying the system. Other tracks youthfully stress-test their most basic components. After starting with an almost impossibly naive loop that sounds like an incomplete snippet of early video game soundtrack, Juke the Box sets off its childish melody with syncopated bursts of gratifyingly harsh sound. This particular train then breaks free of the tracks entirely, running off into a deranged keyboard explosion before concluding more calmly with some bleepy 12-bit Space Invaders noise play. A rabid, ADHD interpretation of the classic build and fade. 

The entire album sounds remarkably, almost suspiciously, fresh. While this is partly down to the terminally cyclical nature of house and techno, it’s also attributable to the album’s rough-hewn lo-fi sound, one which sits comfortably alongside releases from producers like Svengalisghost, Tuff Sherm and MCMXCI. 

It’s worth pointing out that this album is a radical departure from Cabral’s more recent musical projects, which include producing disco-infused house as Runaway (alongside long-time collaborator Jacques Renault), putting out disco edits on their On the Prowl label and even stretching to a couple of gorgeous deep Chicago house tracks on L.I.E.S.

We asked the musically multi-faceted Marcos a couple of questions about how it felt to revisit and release a collection of tracks he couldn’t remember making.

Hi Marcos! How are you? 

Cabral: "I'm good. At home in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. It's around 100F degrees outside at the moment which makes it hard to get motivated." 

"They sound familiar, but I have a vague memory of making them. It's been so long that I can't pinpoint which apartment they were made in and exactly how some of the sounds became that way." – Marcos Cabral

So, the 'False Memories' album. How does it feel for these tracks to get a release so long after you made them?

Cabral: "It felt strange when I heard the test pressing. They sound familiar, but I have a vague memory of making them. It's been so long that I can't pinpoint which apartment they were made in and exactly how some of the sounds became that way. I've probably made hundreds of tracks that will never be released, from time to time I discover them on cassette tapes and CDs. I've probably lost a ton by throwing them out or throwing out old computers." 

Why did you choose the title 'False Memories'?

Cabral: "The name is from not really remembering the details and almost making them up in my head, similar to false childhood memories. Recently my grandmother who's in her 90s told me this story of seeing a snake sucking on a cow's udder at her friend's farm when she was a child. I did some research and it's actually a common myth because snakes love rodents, rodents love hay, and cows stay near hay…That story came to mind when choosing the LP name."

Did you set out to make an album, or did the tracks become one in hindsight? They work really well as a collection. 

Cabral: "They were picked out of an 90 minute cassette. There was some other stuff on there like noise and slow breakbeat stuff. Then I spent a night putting them in an order that made sense me. I wanted it to have a incline in tension, a lull, reprise, but also it had to fit on vinyl track length wise."

How did you unearth/rediscover the particular tape these tracks came off? 

Cabral: "I decided to do an event where I only played cassette tapes…and I invited anyone with a cassette to participate. They could play their tape for up to 15 minutes. Anyways, while digging through my old tapes, I found a few containing old tracks that I made." 

"Sometimes I get a little obsessed with Craigslist." – Marcos Cabral

How do you see these tracks fitting (or not) with the music you produce today? I didn't expect it to be as thundering or experimental.

Cabral: "Maybe I have less angst in my old age? I think the real answer is that I get bored with something after a while then shift in the opposite direction. Right now I'm definitely swaying back toward experimenting. For a while it was fun to have the confinements of house music and the way it doesn't change much." 

What kind of stuff were you listening to at the time? Guesses would include Basic Channel, British techno or Detroit space techno.

Cabral: "That's about right…techno before the minimal boom, especially the labels that were associated with Hard Wax in Berlin."  

What kind of equipment did you use?

Cabral: "All the tracks from the LP were made with a Roland MC-303, which I would make loops on, then sample and chop up in Sound Forge, then arrange in Sony's Acid program, then record them to cassette tape so that I could play them in my car. For me, listening to music in a car is one of my favorite things." 

And what’s your current set-up like? 

Cabral: "I buy and sell gear a lot. Sometimes I get a little obsessed with Craigslist. I enjoy trying out new gear, reading the manual, making tracks, then if I'm not entirely into it I'll try selling it for a profit." 

"At the moment, I have a lot of Roland…Juno 1, Juno 6, Juno 106, JX3P, TR-707.  Although lately I've been moving away from their sound. I also love wavetable synths… like my Waldorf Blofeld or Kawaii K3. I have a Moog Slim Phatty that's fun for bass or leads. For sequencing and drum sounds,  I use the Korg Electribes a lot. Those have tended to stay, many others have passed through." 

What are you working on at the moment and what’s coming up next?

Cabral: "Mostly techno-ish type of tracks. Lately, I try to do everything live in one take. Sometimes it'll take two or three attempts, but I like the natural arrangement it takes on. I'll have another EP out with L.I.E.S. within the next couple months, it's already been mastered. For me the only problem with trying to stick with one label is that I'm now building this stockpile of music. Pretty soon, I'll need to spread it across a few labels." 

And outside of music, what influences/inspires/excites you?

Cabral: "Thinking about synths/gear takes up a lot of my time. Aside from that, cycling, cooking, film, art, nature, outer space, and being in rural areas." 

L.I.E.S. released 'False Memories' in June 2013.