The Director’s Cut: Moullinex – Requiem For Empathy [Discotexas]

Requiem for Empathy is Moullinex’s fourth studio album, which was released on April 30th. It includes collaborations with Sara Tavares, Selma Uamusse, and Afonso Cabral — artists who have been redefining the Lisbon music scene by connecting the multiple cultural expressions to which the Portuguese capital is a natural meeting point. Pivotal in the new record are the collaborations with singer GPU Panic, resulting in four new songs that, much like the rest of the album, are rooted on the dancefloor, but capable of taking the listener into a journey of introspective contemplation. We invited him to take us track by track for the latest installment of The Director's Cut.

Words by Moullinex

1. Inner Child (ft. GPU Panic)

Over 2019 I had done dozens of demos for what would be the follow-up to Hypersex, my previous album. Though I liked them, they weren’t really resonating with how I was feeling at the time. I invited GPU Panic, who plays in my live band, to do a studio session with me, and showed him the arpeggio and rough demo of this track, and he sang a beautiful melody on it. Somehow there was a melancholy to it that felt fresh but still familiar and tied together my early days making electronic music while still pointing towards the future. I felt that this could be the defining track for my new record, and all the subsequent music in it was made after.

2. Kelvin Wake Pattern

I was in a studio in Brooklyn for sessions with Nervous Records. Andrew Salsano, the A&R, challenged me to do a breaks track. I love a dare, so a very close to the final version of this came out in a couple of hours. Sometimes it takes just that, some other times it’ll be months. I’m glad it wasn’t the latter.

Paul Shapiro, an amazing saxophone player who I knew from so many house records and especially his funk band Brooklyn Funk Essentials, came for a session with us. I showed him this track, and he literally did a single take improv over it – at the end, we laughed, and both decided it didn’t need anything else.

3. Running in the Dark (ft. GPU Panic)

I had just written the opening phrase of this track with GPU and remembered a beautiful sound I heard at the little square in Lisbon I went for a walk to when taking a little break from the studio. Ebrima Mbye would teach Kora there, so the soothing sound of his instrument was imprinted in those sunny days. I invited him to come and record with us. Something was missing, though: the sound of children playing in the same square. Using field recordings always helps feel the music occupies real space.

4. Requiem for Empathy

A little tidbit: the vocal on this track was sung by Margarida Encarnação, who does the Portuguese version of "Frozen." We met years ago when working with Teatro Praga in a modern adaptation of Purcell’s The Tempest.

I felt like a wordless vocal part was what the instrumental needed. Leave room for interpretation and wandering. I wanted this track to feel like escaping one’s boundaries.

5. Minina di Céu (ft. Sara Tavares)

I’ve been an absolute fan of Sara Tavares ever since I was a child when she came on national TV to sing on a talent show. She’s carved her own identity as a singer, guitar player, and composer since then, so when a mutual friend introduced us, I had to ask her if she’d like to work on something with me. Upon our first conversation, she was deeply interested in my love for astronomy, so she started taking notes. I asked her if she’d like to sing in her native Cape Verdean Crioulo, which sounds beautifully close to Portuguese, but more magical. The result was "Minina di Céu," which narrates the day of a little girl putting on her best clothes before setting out to conquer the galaxy.

6. Coral

All my life I’ve been a maximalist. Maybe because I never trusted my musical ideas enough, I layered many parts, details, and complexity in my compositions. I always admired the opposite, though, composers that are able to say so much with so little. So "Coral" was an exercise in letting go. There are very few parts in this track, and most of the rhythms actually come from random pattern generators I made in MAX/MSP. I had to resist the temptation of adding more stuff. It kept creeping in up until the record was finished. But now I’m glad I did.

7. Ven (ft. Ekstra Bonus)

Another track done in Brooklyn, this time with Dominican singer Ekstra Bonus. She came over for a session and laid out a whispered scratch vocal that would then be “properly sung.” No, it sounds perfect like that, like someone whispering to your ears. This instrumental particularly explores something I’ve done all over this record, which is to explore patterns that repeat in three’s (12 bar chord progressions, or dotted rhythms, for example). This one is a dotted pattern (bass and chords) that never breaks the hypnotic feel over the 4/4 drums. I think this combination is really hypnotic.

8. Ngoma Nwana (ft. Selma Uamusse)

Selma is one of the few singers capable of making me cry while singing acapella. We’ve known each other and have been sharing stages for years, but we never recorded a collaboration. I’m happy we waited for a good reason: when I showed her the instrumental for Ngoma Nwana, she poured so much of her into the vocal performance, it took us only a couple of takes to get it recorded.

This one also started as a subtraction exercise for me, with only drums, choir sample, and bass, but after recording Selma’s vocals I knew it needed to be taken to another universe, so I added the harp by Angelica Salvi, the piano by Gui Salgueiro and a string quartet arranged by Tito Romão.

9. BREAK/OUT/BREAK (ft. GPU Panic)

Recorded months before the pandemic, this song is about feeling stuck in your city and trying to break out of its routine. How it made so much more sense when Covid hit. For this one GPU Panic and I wanted to contrast a fragile, naked vocal with a heavy-hitting wall of synths and techno-like drums in the background.

10. Luz (ft. GPU Panic)

This album was fully finished in March last year, except for this track. "Luz," written and recorded at home during the first lockdown, was so symbolic to me that I decided to include it. “Luz” is “Light” in Portuguese, and this piano part was something I was playing on repeat as a mantra during those days of uncertainty and shock. GPU Panic added the wordless vocals at his home, and completely encapsulated the feelings we were going through.

11. Hey Bo (ft. Afonso Cabral)

This is the most personal track I’ve ever written. I lost my grandfather in 2019, and after he was gone there was such an empty gap in my life. He had been a huge rock for me, and his death completely caught me off guard, as it was so sudden. I wrote the song a few days after his funeral, but couldn’t sing the words myself, I couldn’t reach the expression I felt it needed. I invited Afonso to come to the studio, as I had a feeling his voice would be perfect for what I wanted to say. I’m happy he accepted.

Grab your copy of Requiem For Empathy here.