31st of May 2007 – This day was first time I saw Riding Pânico live and it was love at first sight. They were opening for Pelican in a beautiful venue in Lisbon called Santiago Alquimista. I had only listened to one song on their Myspace page before the concert. By the time they were done with their 3 or 4 song setlist, I went straight to the merch stand and bought a copy of their first EP, a simple CDR in a paper sleeve which I still cherish to this day.
In case, you’re not familiar with them, Riding Pânico are a very well known band in the Portuguese Post Rock scene, not only in Lisbon (where they are from) but countrywide. They have been a regular presence in one of the country’s most original festivals called Milhões de Festa. Look it up. It’s a pretty awesome and unique little festival. There’s a swimming pool and all.
Despite all this, and perhaps surprisingly, they are not that well known internationally even though have have released some great stuff in the past. Their first EP was made available back in the day on Myspace and can no longer be found there (you can listen to it on Youtube
though). Lady Cobra
(for me, their best album) and Homem Elefante
, their second and third releases, can be found on their previous label’s Bandcamp page.
If you listen to their releases in order, when you get to Rabo de Cavalo (which translates to either “ponytail” or “horse tail”) will make more sense. Each album seems one more step towards a more mature sound and at the same time also exploring more and taking more risks.
First things that strike me here are the very peculiar song titles and two of them in particular: ‘Mats Magnussen’, a Swedish football legend who played for Benfica and ‘Rosa Mota’, a popular Portuguese athlete and gold medal winner in Seoul in 1988.
Then, obviously, and most importantly, the sound. From the first moments, it’s clear that the unmistakable embellishments that Riding Pânico typically use are still very present. Their blend of Math Rock, Prog and Post Rock is quite unique and unconventional. Second track ‘Rosa Mota’ showcases their ability to contrast delicate melodies with the more mathy moments.
The guitar playing is, and always has been, for this band a true highlight. Take ‘Mats Magnussen’, ‘Rosa Mota’ and ‘Modelo e Detetive’ for instance. The tone, the way it leads the way and builds beautiful melodies, the usage of pedals and effects… This is the reason I listen to this band!
At times, the structures feel unconventional and even weird. Even with all this weirdness, it’s quite impossible to lose interest and not be fully engaged. ‘Taxi Magico’ is a great example of this.
I remember reaching the end of the album during my first listen with the intense closer ‘Terreiro do Espaço’ and being left with the feeling I didn’t hear “that same record” all over again. I wasn’t quite sure what hit me. It’s hard to describe. Then I decided to press play again and the pieces of the puzzle started to fall in place and everything felt right. The more you repeat the process, the better it will sound.
The conclusion is that Rabo de Cavalo is short and sweet and it’s also not your conventional and run of the mill Post Rock album. Riding Pânico are one of the most special bands for me for many different reasons. I would encourage everyone to check them out. Don’t only listen to this album, also check out their back catalog. Trust me, it will be worth your time.