Tag Archives: brazil

For Psych Duo Guaxe, There’s No Such Thing as “Brazilian Music”

Guaxe-by-Thalita-Silver-1244Although Americans often seem to view a musician’s country of origin as an essential factor in that artist’s creative identity, Pedro Bonifrate is right when he says there’s really no such thing as “Brazilian music.” The country is vast, and every region has its own unique sound—from the drifting, curtains-in-the-breeze samba of Rio de Janeiro to the pounding drums of Recife. “It may seem strange to you but it’s exactly like saying ‘North American music,’” he explains. “It wouldn’t make much sense, since there’s not that much in common between Dixieland, Laurie Spiegel, Slayer, or Hank Williams. We could say the same about Heitor Villa-Lobos, Jocy de Oliveira, Sepultura, or Os Mutantes.”

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Hidden Gems: Céu, “Tropix”

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In our series Hidden Gems, writers share their favorite Bandcamp discoveries.

Céu knows how to conjure up a mood. Throughout her career, she’s been able to draw from a variety of influences—trip-hop, dub, samba—to flesh out the emotions of her evocative lyrics. On her fourth album Tropix, her tales are underpinned by an airtight, retrofuturistic take on lounge pop. Splashes of psychedelia warrant comparisons to Tropicália legends like Gal Costa, but Céu’s brand of Brazilian music most recalls the ‘90s, when artists like Marisa Monte, Adriana Calcanhotto, and Lenine broadened the scope of MPB beyond its mid-20th century beginnings. Tropix stands out within Céu’s discography and amongst her forebears for how austere it sounds; little here sounds bright and convivial—like the greyscale cover, these tracks exude a confidence that’s readily sourced to Céu’s alluring presence.

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The Adventurous World of Brazilian Experimental Music

Brazilian Experimental MusicBrazil’s musical culture is so broad, and its traditions so intertwined, that the meaning of “Brazilian experimental music” is pleasantly confounded. In other countries, “experimental music” is often defined against a conservative or less adventurous pop landscape. But in Brazil, “the relation between tradition and vanguard in Brazil is ambivalent,” explains Bernardo Oliveira, a Brazilian teacher, researcher, critic, and producer of experimental music. “We’ve incarnated ‘the vanguard of backwardness and the backwardness of vanguard.” 1960s acts like Os Mutantes and Gal Costa dabbled in fractured experimentation, or combined traditional song structures with psychedelic metal and noise. More recently, the festival music of funk carioca turned Miami bass into hugely popular repetitive abstract rhythms. Other important inspirations for current performers include Tropicália arranger Rogério Duprat, early Brazilian electronic musician Jorge Antunes, and the master of uniquely broken songs, Tom Zé. “We are thinking and conceiving the ‘experimental’ not as a ‘genre’ or a fixed approach or repertoire, but as a practice of invention, experimentation that can be also popular or intuitive,” says Oliveira.

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Album of the Day: Victor Assis Brasil, “Esperanto”

Smooth bossa nova this is not. Victor Assis Brasil, a Brazilian saxophone prodigy who studied at Berklee College of Music, was clearly soaking up a ton of American and international music when he recorded Esperanto with a slate of gifted Brazilian players in 1970, a week before his 25th birthday. From the opening cymbal crash of Jimmy Heath’s “Gingerbread Boy,” the album’s sole cover, it’s clear we’re in for a wild ride. This is blistering, inventive jazz that feels more influenced by Coltrane’s pioneering work a decade earlier—and perhaps by 1960s psychedelic rock—than it does by Jobim’s uber-cool and mellow CTI output of the same era. There’s a dose of rock-ish fury on “Quarenta Graus A Sombra,” where Brasil’s runs take on a chaotic edge, a la Eric Dolphy (who, like Brasil, died unexpectedly in his mid-30s). Continue reading

Album of the Day: Piri, “Vocês Querem Mate?”

Have you listened to Os Mutantes as much as humanly possible? Is there no aspect of Gilberto Gil that remains unexplored? Are you able to sing every note on “Tropicália: ou Panis et Circensis” and hum all the basslines AT THE SAME TIME?

Boy, are you in for a treat.

Behold, Vocês Querem Mate?—an obscure slab of 1970-vintage Brazilian psych-folk that packs an afternoon’s worth of delicate trippiness into 28 minutes. (It is two minutes longer and approximately 3,000 times sunnier than Slayer’s 1986 release, Reign in Blood.) Reissued by Far Out (they are really doing God’s work here), Vocês Querem Mate? is the brainchild of one Piry Reis, joined by fellow Brazilian flautists Paulinho Jobim and Danilo Caymmi, and brilliant percussionists Juquina and Wilson Das Neves.

On tracks like the deeply groovy “As Incríveis Peripécias De Danilo,” acoustic guitar, flute, bass, and percussion blur together into ecstatic bliss-out, with the timbre of Reis’s voice compelling you to turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream.

And again, this is compact stuff; the ecstatic “Cupído Esculpido” clocks in at a downright epic 3:06, complete with a groove that could easily hold up for another hour or so. The title translates as “Carved Cupid” which seems, on the surface, odd, given the music’s impossibly cool swing and lilt (and even more absurd given the faintly ridiculous album cover).

But the first track is called “Reza Brava” which translate to “Pray Hard.” “Sombra Morta” translates to “Dead Shadow.” There’s an edge here, the same sort of subdermal melancholia that animated Love’s 1967 album, Forever Changes. But underneath the acoustic guitars, light drums, and vocals that even Johnny Mathis wouldn’t sneeze at, there could be something very dark indeed. Desfrute, mas cuidado. A morte está em toda parte.

—Joe Gross

The Halo Effect: Juana Molina on Superstition and Her New Recording Process

Juana Molina

Photo by Alejandro Ros.

When Juana Molina speaks about her music, she peppers the conversation with rich metaphors, referencing caves and conversations between intimate objects. It’s a linguistic move that parallels the Argentinian singer-songwriter’s homespun, heavily-textured folk. With its gently-sung, Spanish-language lyrics, looped guitars, and unexpected percussive passages, it’s not a stretch to believe that HaloMolina’s seventh and most recent album—was made with mythical creatures in mind, even if Molina herself doesn’t have any particular spiritual beliefs, other than the power of music.

She was once one of her country’s most popular comedians and working in television afforded her the ability to collaborate with like-minded artists in a public setting. But when it came to music, Molina preferred to create in complete solitude. That is, until Halo, when the musician reluctantly let a producer and a band into the process, only saving the final touches for herself. The result is a dark folk song cycle full of electronic embellishments, understated keys, and often frantic guitar lines—a perfect backdrop for her eerie and elegant soprano. Surprisingly, even with all the contrasting elements, Halo feels organic, almost as if the instruments and not the musician herself, put it together. And as Molina points out, that’s exactly the point.

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How Far Out Brought Brazilian Sounds to Britain

Far Out

Joyce Moreno

“I’ll never forget. I know the date: it was December 12, 1993,” recalled Joyce Moreno, in a 2009 interview. The singer-songwriter, a living legend in her native Brazil, was already a musical veteran and a substantial success at home. Swept up in the bossa nova revolution of the early 1960s, she began teaching herself guitar at 14 and released her first album at 20. Throughout the ensuing decades, she would record several more albums, tour extensively, and be declared “one of the greatest singers of all time” by bossa pioneer Antonio Carlos Jobim (who co-wrote the genre’s most famous song, “The Girl from Ipanema”).

Yet despite her stature, Moreno (whose professional name until the late aughts was simply “Joyce”) had never played in England, and couldn’t fathom why she ever would. Her music hadn’t been released in that country and seemingly wasn’t known within its borders, as was the case with many of her peers. There simply hadn’t been a great deal of international interest in Brazilian music after its brief flush of fame in the ’60s. (Jobim, Astrud Gilberto, and Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 were the only Brazilian artists who enjoyed extended careers Stateside, and not even they were able to maintain much momentum into the next decade.) So it was surprising when a clutch of London-based DJs and tastemakers offered to fly her and a backup band to the city to play a single concert, at a now-defunct Brixton nightclub named the Fridge. She walked onstage to a sold-out room of 2,000, many of whom were less than half her 45 years. By all accounts, it was an unforgettable event, and testament to the serious influence the dance-fusion-oriented Acid Jazz movement exerted over British nightlife at the time.

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Why Babe, Terror Is The Grim Reaper Of Dance Music

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Babe, Terror—the working name of Brazilian musician Claudio Szynkier—inhabits a weird world, one where groove music grows out of messy masses of electronic sound. His latest album, Ancient M’ocean, gave rise to a comic book full of fantastical imaginings that the music inspired. Based in Sao Paolo, where he works at a computer shop he opened, Babe, Terror caught the ear of electronic music tastemaker Erol Alkan and his London-based label Phantasy Sound. The imprint put out the new album as well as the comic book. The illustrations in the comic are colorful and impressionistic, with a sort of cosmological sweep, and the story—inasmuch as there is a story—concerns a race of people living in a distant world not much like our own. Near the beginning, an appreciation of the natural world turns into an observation of hunter-gatherer nature of the people (“There is fishing and there is more,” the reader learns). There’s also a bizarre sport, which is played to much fanfare: “The events that happen in the land and with the young people of the land during the games produces streams of secret electricity.”

Musically, Babe, Terror moves between woozy ambient music reminiscent of Boards of Canada and My Bloody Valentine, and rough-hewn sample loops in line with Black Dice’s Eric Copeland and Caribou. Speaking from his Brazilian home—with the rainy season started and thunder rumbling outside—Babe, Terror talked to Bandcamp about football (soccer!), Genesis, and “Wrong Dance Music.”

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