One of the most exciting things about living in the twenty-first century is that we finally get to hear the history of electronic music on a comprehensive and global scale. A consistent approach to the medium of electronic music did not begin in Portugal until around 1970, when Portugal's longstanding authoritarian ruler António de Oliveira Salazar died and his regime began to crumble. The earliest of the pieces on this Tomlab compilation Antologia de Música Electrónica Portuguesa dates from 1974, the year of the virtually bloodless "Carnation Revolution" that finally rid the Portuguese government of the military despots who controlled her for half a century.
Antologia de Música Electrónica Portuguesa is curated by composer Rafael Toral, whose piece Mills Session is likewise included. The evolution of Portuguese electronic music goes hand in hand with the development of her rock music, and in addition to the 12 composers it represents, this compilation includes the music of three groups as well. Only two of 15 pieces are heard complete, the rest are excerpts ranging from nine minutes to just under two that feel integral even though they are not. Many of the senior artists in this project studied outside of Portugal with composers such as Pierre Boulez and Iannis Xenakis, whereas younger musicians have played in avant-garde rock groups; Toral has jammed with Jim O'Rourke and Rhys Chatham. There is no room here to discuss each piece and composer in detail, but Performance # by the group Telectu, actually a long tape loop prepared for an installation of paintings, is highly enjoyable. The Anar Band's Plasticman also stands out, as it is closer to being a jazz improvisation than with what one would normally associate with purely electronic music.
The electronic music created in Portugal is equivalent of a long-suppressed cry of freedom, and Tomlab's Antologia de Música Electrónica Portuguesa offers a tremendous amount of variety in both sound and approach. It is a carefully considered and well-assembled primer to the unexpected wealth of engaging electronic music made in a land historically known for its exploration of unknown territory.