“Our motivation is to be different than [what] we were,” notes Nuno Gonçalves, and boy he isn’t kidding.
Answering a question asked back in 2011 when PopMatters visited the Gift in Spain, the keyboardist and lead songwriter of Portugal’s the Gift has made it clear that no two albums will sound the same. Amazingly, over the course of two decades, the band has kept this promise.
Since 1994, Nuno—along with his brother/bassist/manager John, singer Sónia Tavares, and guitarist Miguel Ribeiro—have been cranking out everything from lush synthpop to brooding electro ballads to guitar-driven psychedelia. They’ve never been content with staying in one place, and when 2011’s joyous pop effort Explode emerged, the group made their first real crack at the North American market.
Now, after years of silence, the group isn’t only back, but they’re back in a big way. The Gift’s new album Altar (which, like all their previous efforts, is released on their label), is produced by none other than Brian Eno. After Eno guested in the video for “Love Without Violins”, it’s clear that with a heavy electronic emphasis and a renewed sense of pop wonder, Portugal’s favorite export might be on the verge of something beautiful.
To help celebrate the occasion, not only will the band be invading America through gigs in New York and SXSW, but also by unleashing yet another brand new song in the form of “Big Fish” premiering exclusively at PopMatters here below:
From its “do-do” vocal intro to its Talking Heads-styled group chants, the galloping beat of “Big Fish” pushes the band’s sound into something that’s even more playful and more dynamic than what we heard on Explode, layering synth hooks on top of reverb breakdowns and just the right amount of funk guitar in the background to keep things moving.
When asked about how the band came up with it, Nuno Gonçalves tells us that “Big Fish” is “a song about the recording sessions for the album. With our busy touring schedule and Brian Eno’s tight schedule, we only had 12 days of recording sessions. During those 12 days we were talking about everything from us to what we had in mind for each song and for this song, the rhythm has always been our great concern. We changed the groove of the song some three or four times. There was something that was always present: the positivity and the desire to dance. The song speaks of these 12 days with the dance floor in the back of our minds.”
In regards to Eno’s influence over the LP as a whole, Tavares noted that “Brian produced the whole record. He sings and plays in almost every song. But, of course, those two are special. His vocals on ‘Love Without Violins’ and that keyboard on ‘Clinic Hope’ elevate the songs to another level.”
Altar will be available digitally on 7 April 2017, and physically on 5 May 2017.