Electronic music may be nearly twice as old as rock ‘n’ roll, but that doesn’t mean its sinuous path out of avant-garde obscurity was any easier—especially in Portugal, a country living under a dictatorship for almost half of the 20th century. As duly explained in Eduardo Morais’s 2011 documentary on the Portuguese underground, Meio Metro De Pedra, poverty and censorship translated into restricted access to the knowledge and equipment needed to make music. And if guitars were financially out of bounds for the majority of the population, synthesisers were practically a distant myth.
Yet everybody knows that the tougher it gets, the harder people push. This fantastic resilience is exactly what Key Tonic portrays with gusto, tracing the journey of electronic music in Portugal from the first experiments with electroacoustic machines in the 1960s to the present day.
Over the course of 90 minutes, household names, including Armando Teixeira (Da Weasel, Bizarra Locomotiva), José Cid (Quarteto 1111), Carlos Maria Trindade (Madredeus, Heróis do Mar), and Fernando Abrantes (Kraftwerk), discuss the post-dictatorship experiments of the 1970s, the synth popularisation of the 1980s, the inevitable DJ conquest of the 1990s, and the 21st-century consecration brought about by internationally recognised festivals like Semibreve.