The press have had a fair shot at describing the music of Brazilian band Metá Metá. From creating a “dirty brew of psychedelic samba, distorted jazz and Afro-punk” to being described as “life-affirming” or even “punk rock”, their sound seems to encapsulate and unearth a vast array of genres. Despite being quite disparate descriptions, they are all curiously accurate which is proof of how eclectic their sound is and how quickly they can shift from one style to the other. What everyone who has seen them live will unanimously agree on, however, is that the live performance is the most integral aspect of their music.
The music programming at Café OTO is what most would term cutting-edge or avant-garde. So when we entered the 200-capacity venue to the sound of lead singer Juçara Marçal belting out Exu, an apparent summoning of a supernatural orixá spirit to commence the gig, the unconventionality of the ritual didn’t feel so out of place – unconventional within the “western” parameters of music, culture and religion. All three core band members – Marçal (vocals), Thiago França (sax), Kiko Dinucci (guitar) – are subscribers to the Afro-Brazilian religion, candomblé, though on the night they were joined by a bass player and a drummer. A mixture of this spirituality and an artistic freedom allows Metá Metá to trespass into subversive realms of music.
The band boldly juxtaposed clashing styles to make for a challenging, yet captivating, set of songs. As a listener, it’s impossible to predict what is coming next; the most manic cacophony of sound can reduce down to the quietest hush as heard in the haunting Man Feriman. A more samba-suited number might follow, and then a raucous song reminiscent of 70s punk will erupt after that. Dissonance is also found throughout the band’s songs where the instrumental parts aren’t quite in tandem. The guitar often sticks firmly to one repeated riff while the saxophone wanders selfishly down its own customised path. The chord progressions more often than not take a turn for the foreboding and along with macabre trills of saxophone help to convey the uneasiness that underpins much of their music.
As the band shifts convincingly from style to style, it becomes clear that so great is the variety that, if they picked their songs at random to determine a set order, every ordering would sound just as schizophrenic. Of course, with such different styles on show the crowd found themselves vigorously head-nodding at one moment whilst smoothly hip-swaying at the next.
There was bedlam at times, but just the right amount, never breaching the boundaries of calculated chaos in what was such an effective live delivery. Granted, many bands have to be heard live to be fully appreciated, but upon hearing the free flow of Metá Metá in the flesh, it felt as though a genuinely intrinsic part of the experience was missing before when they were playing through a laptop. In other words, they make music that has to be heard live and those fortunate enough to be in the crowd clearly savoured this rare opportunity to witness such a special performance in a little corner of Dalston.