Brazilian Wax #4

By | 02 December, 2020

A quirk of timetabling has given me extra time this month source music for my Brazilian Wax round-up. Consequently, I’ve been inundated with great music. Normally, I feel I’m leaving out some fantastic projects. But, here, seeing as it’s the last round-up of the year, I’ve decided to squeeze in a couple of extra projects, covering over twenty great new releases. So, I think I can confidently say, this is a comprehensive guide to the very best Brazilian music of the six weeks or so – an all-inclusive array of jazz, MPB, experimental electronics, rap, rock and everything in between and beyond.

Full-Length Albums

HIGHLIGHT

Tantão E Os Fita – Piorou ( QTV)

The shimmering vocals on “Introdução ao Piorou” is absolutely key to understanding Tantão e Os Fita’s third album. Iridescent, the choir – which, on Piorou’s opener, is erratically interrupted by scratching electronics and thudding feedback – is mesmeric. As if recorded in a cathedral, the voices’ reverberations echo, creating harmonics that shoot chills as much as the devastating feedback interruptions do. Before getting in to the ring with Tantão E Os Fita’s, then, it’s important to understand that this record is not just a screaming-match; it’s not a musical survival-of-the-fittest. Piorou is a painstakingly arranged, sinewy tour de force, which floats like a butterfly as well as stinging like a bee. 

As per 2019’s Drama, Tantão’s latest album instantly spurns classification. On the title-track, producers Abel Duarte and Cainã Bomilcar hook up a trap beat to jump leads and shock-torture it into submission. Carlos Antônio de Mattos (aka Tantão) bellows over the top: “Piorou/ Vai piourou” (“It got worse/ It will get worse”), as if the listener hadn’t got the distressing message via the instrumental. And, just in case the casual listener needed further warning, on the following “Rota de Fuga”, over tumbling dumpster-truck trance, Tantão, in a guttural bark, alerts the listener to quickly find an emergency exit (“Escolha logo/ Sua rota de fuga”). For the intrepid listener, though, allured by the buzzsaw aggression, there’s a lot to find within the clattering layers of “Rota”. Beneath Tantão’s bellowing, there’s semblance of Afro-Brazilian percussion – and it’s these analogue details that elevate the exhilarating racket to something altogether more nuanced.

Succeeding the gabber-like “Autorama”, with its chainsaw recoil-rope samples, and “Geradores”, which sounds like Squarepusher being played through a metal bin, “Jogação” stumbles upon a triplet baile hook with tuned mid-toms. It’s one of the album’s more melodic pieces and it’s an example of the band’s tonal range, with stuttering electroacoustic samples and squeaky vocal hooks. Atop, Tantão negotiates the KKK, online wargames and Iron Man in a characteristically surreal vocal spree. And, then, after a suitably titled interlude, “Risos” (“Laughter”), Tantão’s surreal humour comes out swinging. “A Hora Do Brasil” starts with a plasticky melodic vocal sample, which is then ludicrously paired with some of Tantão’s most venomous roaring, making for one of the album’s most triumphantly head-banging moments. Later, on the hilarious “Deu Bug”, Tantão reaches blood-vessel-bursting levels while screaming “boogie woogie” over an unrelenting chainsaw beat. Indeed, for all its initial unapproachableness, Piorou isn’t the sound of three angry men purposely alienating and assaulting the listener – you’re their mate, and often the recipient of Tantão’s sick jokes and class-clown performances. As hostile as Piorou might initially sound, the thundering onslaught of noise is always cathartic, invigorating and, while intermittently terrifying, wholly welcoming.

Album closer “Tênis” is breath-taking. Rumbling percussion underpins haunting sung-wailed vocals and shattering triggered feedback, propelling the listener towards a bewitching moment of stripped-back group singing. The album goes full circle, here – finishing with the same textural and melodic beauty it starts with, reminding us that Tantão E Os Fita do do conventional prettiness. But for the trio, there’s also beauty in Piorou’s most seething aggression. Two-thirds of the way through the album, we hear one of the most prickly feedback-infused pieces. On its chorus, Tantão repeatedly barks the adjectives “bonito” (“pretty”) and “feio” (“ugly”). With each spat-out adjective, Tantão pitches the binaries against each other, inviting the listener to compare the terms. For most listeners, this onslaught of trembling feedback and growled vocals would be undeniably ugly. But, the track is named “Bonito”. Even at its nastiest, Piorou is an exhilaratingly beautiful album. It’s instantly engaging, overwhelming, blood-curdlingly brazen and totally unique.

HIGHLIGHT

Luedji Luna – Bom Mesmo É Estar Debaixo D’Água (Self-Released)

Luedji Luna’s O Bom Mesmo É Estar Debaixo D’Água begins with the pull and sway of the Salvador tide. That’s to say, Joyce Prado’s lush video accompaniment to Luna’s visual-album begins tumbling in the shallow water amid darting fish and the spray of the surf on the shore. Sonically, too, water is a prevalent force in Luna’s music. Babbling instrumentation becomes, quickly, thematic – the candomblé percussion on opener “Uanga” can attest to that. Equally, the uninterrupted flow from one song to the next makes the album a wholly immersive underwater experience – one song heaving languidly towards the next, like an unbroken roll of the ocean. 

Above the percussion, on “Uanga”, poet and composer Lande Onwale sings, in a hybrid of Portuguese and Angolan Kimbundu: “O amor é Coisa que moí muximba/ E depois o mesmo que faz curar” (“Love is the thing that breaks the heart/ And, after, the same thing that heals it”). Bom Mesmo…’s thematic concerns are introduced by one of very few male voices heard during the album’s 50 minutes. Indeed, in Luna’s words, Bom Mesmo… is “a reflection on the affectivity of black women”. And, for her, such a topic warrants profound interrogation of love, which she deems “the primary source […] contained in every atom” – something, indeed, that can break and heal. Exploring love for the album’s duration, Luna ruminates on black female intersectionality through language which, in turn, dialogues with candomblé spirituality, historic female voices and contemporary Brazilian artists. Underpinned by a sumptuous blend of Afro-Brazilian rhythms, North American soul tradition and contemporary Brazilian R&B, the result is rich, layered and shimmering with beauty. 

 “Chororô” is a meditation on female autonomy. Upon a bouncy yet brooding bass, Luna’s protagonist lists all the things she doesn’t have: no floor, no ceiling, no relatives, no money, no in-date passport, no boy- or girlfriend – perhaps more remarkably, though, the exhaustive list of what she does have: dreams of giving birth to three children. The female voice cannot own anything, nor accrue anything but children. She has no money, no home, no possibilities of travelling, and her dreams and possible futures are checked accordingly. Delivered in Luna’s full, commanding alto, the verses of “Chororô” swing and swagger from minor-key solemnity towards gorgeous moments of sweet melodic intervals, but we always return to the minor mood – the tune like the female voice, unable to take flight from sombre starting-points. It’s only when the track tumbles into a bombastic verse of Nina Simone’s “Ain’t Got No”, that lyrics like “ain’t got no culture” serve as powerful moments of irony – a wink at the listener.

From this point of having nothing, Luna begins building a network of black female culture. The second half of Luna’s “Ain’t Got No” iteration features Conceição Evaristo, a prominent Afro-Brazilian writer, reciting her poem “The Night Doesn’t Fall Asleep in the Eyes of Women” – itself, already, a dedication to the Afro-Brazilian activist and academic Beatriz Nascimento. Later, on “Lençóis” – a contemplative piano-led piece – Luna collaborates with Beatriz’s namesake, Tatiana Nascimento, a celebrated contemporary poet, singer, composer and publisher, who co-founded Palavra Preta (a National Exhibition of Black Authors) with Luna. On the album highlight, following a tonally sumptuous trumpet solo, Nascimento reads her searching poem “Almost”, where the female speaker doesn’t want to settle for “um pedaço” (“piece”) of love, however, believing “these days […] things are so broken”, she decides it might be all she can ask for.

Luna certainly put all her love into this sonically and culturally rich project. Every sound is plush, spacious and the meticulous arrangements are wonderfully fluid – thanks, in no small part to album co-producer and Kenyan guitarist Kato Change, who formed a band with musicians from Kenya, Madagascar and Burundi to work on the songs when Luna, who was originally working with them in Kenya, realised she was pregnant and had to return home. You can hear the central and south-east African influences in the plucked strings and swaying triple-time of “Origami”. Luna’s album traverses global sounds as much as it travels between diverse cultural references. On “Ain’t I A Woman?”, taking the name from either bell hooks’ ground-breaking intersectional text or Sojourner Truth’s original 1851 abolitionist speech, reggae drum patterns, and dub bass and delay effects meet funk organ. Meanwhile, on highlight “Recado”, a samba-jazz bass ostinato is punctured by lively percussion and syncopated guitar. On the album’s most recognisably Brazilian cut, Luna sounds light, singing of fleeing both literal and patriarchal structures – getting out of the city; having no ring-finger – in order to spend some time thinking of herself. O Bom Mesmo… might be the result of such fleeing. Immersed in Luna’s underwater world, the listener is swathed in a vivid portrayal of black-female experience – or, to use Evaristo’s term, Luna’s escrevivência.

HIGHLIGHT

Felipe Neiva – tanto (Cavaca Records)

Appropriately formatted in scruffy lowercase, “tanto.” – which means “so much.” – is the most DIY (id est, shoddily recorded) maximalist pop record on earth. The shuffling drum samples and gain-heavy vocals of “Desire” is a suitably lo-fi fanfare and, in an uncontrolled warble, Felipe Neiva yowls above glitchy midi beats. “Inside my mind/ Desire”, he declares. And, it’s the track’s eponymous noun that dictates much of the ensuing 40 minutes. Neiva’s sophomore release on Cavaca Records is an unbridled ode to creative impulse, throughout which desire triumphs over discipline. 

Often the outcome of this is euphoric. On the majestic “Tilele” Neiva, immediately out-of-tune, wails with little restraint. Atop choppy guitars and whirring synths, he steers his anthemic pièce de resistance towards an earth-shattering climax – each chorus, pushing his voice to unhuman limits. It’s totally exhilarating – like watching an emboldened sea-captain, gung-ho and tanked-up, only just keeping his sinking ship above the water. Undeniably the album’s most jubilant three minutes, “Tilele” is a tough act to follow. But the groove on the succeeding “Amor-Vício” is utterly undeniable. With synth strings, vocoder vocals and a stuttering sax solo, “Amor-Vício” is almost as audacious as its predecessor. And, equally, “mEu” – which is like stadium rock played by ham-fisted fifteen-year olds – has no shortage of ecstatic energy.

Nevertheless, besides “so much”, “tanto” can mean “too much”. And, while there are ridiculous highs early on, the latter half of the album wears a bit thin. The charm of Neiva’s uninhibited maximalism fades on the off-kilter ballad “Não Dá Mais”. And on closer “Moléstia-Vida”, the untuned vocals (which, by this point, sounds more like an artistic choice than a technical shortcoming) begin to grate.

Vibrant and endlessly imaginative, “tanto.” is the sound of someone hitting their technical limits, and then smashing right on through them, rocket-fuelled by boundless creative horsepower. At times, Neiva’s imagination takes hold of the listener and we soar with him to unbelievable heights. But, too often, we just doesn’t lift-off with it, leaving us wondering whether Neiva’s sporadic ingenuity is just an incidental effect of his idiosyncrasy. It’s an album that can leave the listener bewildered. And the biggest question it poses: would “tanto.” be so beguiling if Neiva were to have hit the emergency brakes on occasion?  

Ítallo – O Time Da Mooca (Self-Released)

Crackling percussion, restless bass and discordant judders make for a misleading introduction to Ítallo’s sunny sophomore release O Time Da Mooca – the most archetypally Brazilian record of the year. The album name which means “Team Mooca” is stamped, in retromanic typeface, atop a sun-bleached snapshot of its protagonist juggling a football. The album’s cover couldn’t look be more evocative of a Brazil romanticised of world-over. And Itallo’s music is a buoyant collection of updated Brazilian cultural signifiers – plenty of shuffling caixa, fluttering pifanos, organ and funk bass, which underpin coming-of-age tales set in Ítallo’s hometown, Arapiraca, Alagoas.

“Zuada E Zuera” clicks into gear with a winding bass motif and zestful vocals, thick with syrupy auto-tune. Less a song than a wriggling earworm, it is a spirited warm-up act, introducing Ítallo’s modern street-samba and heralding the title-track which follows. “O Time Da Mooca” is an instantly enchanting MPB-funk crossover in the mould of ‘70s Di Melo. Regaling with stories of street-football, the title-track is sublime – a breezy, blissful two and a half minutes that, delivered with the slack grooviness of Orlandivo and the squeaky vocal tone of Gilberto Gil, recalls golden-era MPB. “Breno” is a brief bossa nova – stylish and casually understated. And “Duas Ximbras”, which begins with a descending vocal pattern that evokes Tim Maia’s “O Caminho Do Bem”, swings via neat harmonies towards a drifting violão meditation. Everything on Ítallo’s album sets a sepia mood – these short tracks are often content with piling up like yellowing snapshots that evoke warm nostalgia without revealing lifelike detail. But when more well-crafted songs breeze by – and they do – you are transported to the good old days in vivid colour. “Orlando Golada” is an effervescent samba, with conversational vocals that gambol through meandering guitar and gang vocal “oohs” and “aahs”. And the following “Camisa Do Flamengo” is a gorgeously intimate Novos Baianos number which, speeds up with doubled carnivalesque lead-guitar lines reminiscent of A Cor Do Som. 

The greatest strength of O Time Da Mooca is its maker’s knack for conjuring warm, vivid imagery. On his second full-length, Ítallo is as an MPB devotee, remoulding and regenerating his favourite sounds and updating them for a decade that, thus far, consists of looking through old photos and wondering where the good times have gone. Occasionally, O Time Da Mooca is a case of style over substance. But, if you’ve got bags of style, why not flaunt it alongside the substance?

Mais Uma – QUERO QUERO QUERO QUERO (Tratore)

Mais Uma’s QUERO QUERO QUERO QUERO is an intimate record that puts the listener within touching distance of the band. On the titular opener, you can feel every squeak of the violão and hear the clipped breaths of Jasmim Vasques‘ skipping vocals. “Súbita Alma” is a gorgeous lullaby. While reverb-heavy female vocals on “O Médico ou o Monstro” bewitch above a clinky plucked violão line, like a shadowy Y La Bamba demo. “Fugindo da Canção” is full of swelling close harmonies that highlights the ensembles perfectly blended (if not pitched) voices. But it is “Livros & Abelhas”, with its lush choral introduction and assertive vocals that truly soars. “Não Tente Mudar Amanhã” is the intriguing eight-minute closer, introduced with blooming strings, and featuring violão noodling spotlighted by the album’s neatest production (the guitars sound so warm and crisp). It makes you wonder what QUERO could have been if Mais Uma ploughed a grander, more atmospheric furrow. But QUERO is like your favourite jumper. It’s not a showpiece, nothing to steal attention – and all the better for it. QUERO QUERO QUERO QUERO‘s comfort is unequalled; it has a way of wrapping around you and making you feel safe, warm and at home.

Orquestra Afrosinfônica – Orín, a Língua dos Anjos (Máquina de Louco)

When identifying what it was that provoked him to collaborate with the Orquestra Afrosinfônica, Vik Muniz, whose monochrome masterwork graces Orín’s cover, acknowledged band-leader Ubiratan Marques’ meticulous orchestrations. “Marques’ music interested me from the beginning, perhaps, because of my interest in mosaics. All orchestral music has this quality of mosaic, of the relationship between complex fragments and the harmony of the whole.” In Marques’ compositions, Muniz astutely recognises a fastidious craftsmanship. On Orín, Marques deftly integrates vastly differing musical traditions – candomblé rhythms, third-stream arrangements, Afro-Brazilian melodies – into an immensely rich whole. According to Muniz, “Marques evokes the poetic ambition of harmonising a rich cacophony of experiences into a divine language.” Suitably, Orín is subtitled “a Língua dos Anjos”; “the Language of Angels”. And the Orquestra Afrosinfônica speaks it fluently, with ample eloquence.

Over the course of an hour, Marques leads a mammoth 22-piece orchestra, a choir of female voices, and an assembly of celebrated musicians that include members of BaianaSystem, Gerônimo Santana and Mateus Aleluia (who pens a number of the compositions). Drawing on such a wealth of phenomenal players, Orín is an exquisitely performed collection of twelve delicately written compositions, rooted in the same Afro-Brazilian sounds and rhythms that Baden Powell and Vinicius De Moraes drew from on 1966’s Os Afro-sambas. Unlike the 1966 masterpiece, though, on Orín every drum rumble, every guitar pluck and each group-vocal chorus is expanded to gargantuan size. “Onde Estão as Borboletas”, written by Aleluia, is a dynamic rhythmic piece in which every instrument’s accompaniment part is so wonderfully written and so captivating that it might well be the song’s lead melody. Syncopated chorus vocals and searching, inquisitive piano feel and fumble through woodwind and percussion towards Aleluia’s own commanding baritone, as the undulating piece grows to a jubilant climax. “Água”, introduced with the babbling of its nominative element and majestic choral singing, swells into a meditative violão-led soundscape which swathes the listener. It’s the title-track, though, that, with sheer rhythmic force, is most emphatic. A stabbed piano motif whips up a commanding pace, sprinkled with claps and percussion. Woodwind and brass interlink artfully towards lovely blossoming choruses, accented by timpani and thudding brass stops, making for some of the most technically masterful and immediately thrilling four minutes of music on this list.

Celeste Moreau Antunes & João Marcondes – Rio Manso Vol. 1 (Rosa Celeste)

Delicate and cautious, Celeste Moreau Antunes tests the water on “Diferente”, quietly fluttering over contrapuntal flute lines (played by Lucila Ferrini). The tip-toe tempo and texture on Rio Manso Vol. 1’s opener indicates Antunes’ charming ingenuousness – while enchanting, the 29-year-old Paulista doesn’t initially sound sure-footed on her debut album. However, what seems an appealing naiveté, proves actually to be a controlled, if quiet, grace. Antunes’ voice is diaphanous on “Diferente” – as light as her flute counterpart, but never quavering. Lissom and lightweight, she floats above the bare violão and occasional cuíca squeak, evoking a young Joyce Moreno. Bowed double-bass accents (Gustave Sato) occasionally enter the sparse texture, but Rio Manso Vol. 1’s first track remains nimble and easy, floating in airy space. The album is, as its title promises, a gentle river. 

“Asa”, beginning with broken chords courtesy of João Marcondes’ solo violão, is equally sparse as Antunes wanders back and forth atop, not really going anywhere but taking scenic routes about a root chord. She entreaties, “Não corte/ as minhas/ asas” (“Do not cut/ my/ wings”), pausing between lines and producing a tempo rubato lilt, like a renaissance poet might, resting at caesuras and demanding silence from an accompanying lyre. Intriguingly, Antunes, who is a published writer and poet, sets her lyrics out, on the album’s press release, with similar space – each written word or phrase occupies distinct and individual space in the surrounding blankness. This minimalist aesthetic extends throughout the album. “Vontande Involuntária” is a mesmeric melodic loop, built through vocal delays which pile up, and slip away just as quickly. The song begins “Da vida eu quero a manteiga/ E a faca sem serra/ Uma combinação perfeita:/ Eu quero o que escorrega” (“From life, I want butter/ And an un-serrated knife/ A perfect combination:/ I want what slips”). Rio Manso is duly easy, slipping from one idea to the next with such graceful facility. Later, on “Vontande Involuntária”, Antunes avows, “I want what condenses/ Simply because it collapses”. Later, still: “I want to be […] immersed in a pot”. Rio Manso is an immersive album, not through oppression – not because of each song’s thick texture, nor overwhelming loudness or maximalism. On Rio Manso, the music is immersive simply because it is too featherlight not to collapse and condense into the listener.

Cardamomo – Nada A Fazer (Tratore)

It’s quite a feat for an instrumental rock three-piece to make a 45-minute album which never feels like it lacks vocals. The music that Cardamomo makes isn’t, on paper, particularly intricate, multi-layered or worthy of close-listening. Songs have conventional verse-chorus structures, the texture is very homophonic, without show-stealing soloing or interesting sonic experimentation. Ostensibly, it’s just three men playing guitar (Marcelo Henkin), bass (Johnny Oliveira) and drums (Guilherme Boll). So why is Nada A Fazer so listenable, so engaging?

Well, for starters, the three-piece write outrageously catchy melodies. The interweaving bass and guitar motif that begins album opener “Gules” sounds like it’s been lifted straight from that Bombay Bicycle Club album that dominated noughties indie discos. Above buoyant drums, the guitar line slowly mutates: the occasional broken seventh chord; then, a Pavement breakdown with a chromatically rising bass part; then, a moment of tension, which is duly resolved, as we return to the original motif, only with greater momentum. The interplay between tension and relief is masterful throughout the album – the stuttered chords that interrupt the metre of “À Deriva”, the angular guitar introduction on “Neurônicos” which is resolved into a lolloping Mac Demarco jam, the thudding repetition of “Saturado”, which dissolves into one of the album’s more tender moment. Patience is often required on Cardamomo’s debut album, but Nada A Fazer has a lot more going on than its title would have you believe. 

Allen Alencar – Aqui Onde (PIPA Music)

Aqui Onde could be included on this list for the strength of opener “Vesúvio” alone. Fittingly, after ample bubbling and hissing, the opener explodes into action with volcanic grandeur. A squealing guitar climbs from beneath thundering drums, introducing Allen Alencar‘s surprisingly tender vocal line. The verse hook is sweet and melodically intricate and perfectly balances out the full sound of the band. It’s a balance that unfortunately isn’t struck enough during the album’s remaining 24 minutes. “Até O Osso” introduces the tone for what follows – it is thicker, slower, and remarkably less fun. That’s not to say moments of brilliance don’t shine through the sludge – most notably in the album’s variegated timbres. The vocals on “Pássaros E Flores” are double-tracked, creating an urgent whisper above brittle guitars and round, rolling synth pedals. It topples into a messy guitar solo with tumbling percussion and extraneous noises, before being led into a delay-laden coda. “O Meu Lugar”, flanked by comparatively swampy compositions, is the most stripped-back track and remains playful and dexterous with angular guitars atop a sparse, percussive texture. “Não Há”, likewise, is more rhythmic and dynamic, its bossa nova rhythm pulling sombre reverb-heavy vocals through the heavy texture. Aqui Onde is an album that demands ample wading – which in moments is wholly rewarding. When Alencar’s album lights up, it is fantastic, but you’ve got to be patient. It’s probably worth noting that Vesuvius has only erupted three-dozen times in 2098 years; perhaps hoping for more of the opener’s explosive energy was foolish.

Bruno Cosentino – Bad Bahia (CLEMENTE)

Bruno Cosentino’s Bad Bahia is a spacious, gentle album; a loose weave of violão, acoustic percussion, double bass and the occasional solo string or electric guitar. Even when playing together, each instrument sounds beguilingly solitary – distinct in the finicky texture. In fact, texturally, the album is gorgeous. The raindrop-like percussion on the title-track mimics Cosentino’s gently fricative vocals, meanwhile on the following “Ciúmes”, occasional electric-guitar bends blend with the weeping vocals. Throughout the album, harmonic instruments are dextrously manipulated, stretching to percussive capabilities with pitter-patter mutes and prickly harmonics. The stuttering contrapuntal guitars on “O Grande Azul” almost sound like a looped sample above the thick, plucked upright bass – and the looped effect is mirrored in the outro’s group vocals. Even on the predictable ballad “Quando Penso Em Você”, there’s no end of textural treats – notably the muted, plucked guitar low in the mix. The tail-end of the album loses focus – the arrangements are less artful, the playing less urgent and direct. But album-closer, layered with musique concrète transparency film, spotlights Cosentino’s wonderfully delicate vocals and returns to Bad Bahia at its most beautiful: multi-layered, quietly complex yet, equally, light and easy. 

Singles & EPs

Héloa – Opará Na Pista (YB Music)

Opará Na Pista is an EP consisting of four carefully arranged remixes. The raw material? Cuts from Héloa’s 2019 full-length, Opara – itself, an exploration of indigenous Sergipana culture translated into a contemporary R&B idiom. On Na Pista, this modus operandi is taken one step further, with DJ Raíz, Yuri Queiroga, DJ Dolores, Furmiga Dub, Lucas Estrela and STRR revising the originals and making them fly. On “La Tempo 2.0”, combative bass stabs are draped in lush organ. Héloa, riding atop the swaying instrumental, ruminates on virtue of patience – “Saber esperar não é mais padecer” (“To know to wait is no longer to suffer”). But she doesn’t make music that demands it; each track on this EP flurries past, sparse yet effervescent with energy. The dub-influenced “Mar Menino 2.0” bounces, carried by Héloa’s most attention-grabbing melody line – attention-grabbing particularly when arriving at each chorus’ incongruous and chromatic flat-five inflection. Meanwhile, “Maré Mansa 2.0” skips breezily, with prominent bassline and house-music hi-hats. Inspired by dance rituals, such as funaná, Gweta, hapingo and Ikoku, it is a club-ready piece, and features Mulheres Livres – a group formed by female inmates of the Carandiru prison. “Mamãe Oxum 2.0”, featuring a sampled Maria Bethânia extolling the Yoruban orixá Oxum, is the EP’s densest composition – with thudding drums and shadowy synths. It is also the most electronically doctored, becoming, by its climax, almost full-on EDM. But, while Héloa’s latest EP is rooted in contemporary urban sensibilities – the triplet pattern of funk baile, the dubby EQs, the electronic FX of more brazen DJs – there remains an organic sheen, tangible throughout the album. This baile is from the selva not the cities.

Pedro Bienemann – Vulgo (Matraca Records)

Perceptibly the progeny of quarantine, prolific sideman Pedro Bienemann released his bedroom-produced debut EP Vulgo last month. Dulcet without turning saccharine, Vulgo is a thick and warm collection of neo-soul showpieces which puts Bienemann’s talents as a songwriter and vocalist – as well as his elegant guitar work – front and centre. On “Curumin”, his voice is gorgeous – velvety and round, it glides at a comfortable tessitura, above syncopated guitar strums. Laced with shimmering chorus and flanger, the instrumental finds a persuasive, yet lazy groove, making for the EP’s most easy-going cut. The single “Alelulia”, which features Lau E Eu, bubbles like warm caramel, with squelchy synth bass and jerky high vocal samples. With blasé speak-rap vocals that follow a stumbling back-beat, its production is impressively intricate, but the whole piece sounds totally effortless. On the concluding “Corpo Celeste”, Bienemann’s long-time collaborator – and his EP’s director – Jadsa shines. Her higher-pitched vocals cut through a busy production, with moments of gain-laden guitar, ample echo and an erratic time-signature changes. While Bienemann isn’t doing anything particularly new on his first solo release, the multi-instrumentalist proves his proficiency, showing plenty chops with a slack-jawed swagger.

Ibã Sales Huni Kuin – Uma voz da floresta encantada (Self-Released)

Uma voz da floresta encantada is a curious document which spans centuries of Brazilian cultural production. A collection of traditional chants of the Huni Kuin people, Uma voz gives spotlight to the sounds of Nixi Pae ceremonies (in other cultures, Ayahuasca ceremonies) as sung by Ibã Sales Huni Kuin – a professor of natural sciences, forest expert, and healer. Recorded by Eric Makibara (Miag), and produced by Bruno Di Lullo and Domenico Lancelotti, Uma voz is a rousing portmanteau of avant-garde sound sculptures and native timbres and themes. This, it can be assumed, is in no small part, down to the input Thiago Nassif, who mixed and mastered the recordings, and has sat at the helm of many exceptional releases this year. Each track begins with Ibã Sales’ unaccompanied vocals – each refrain, infectiously rhythmic thanks to neatly clipped phrasing and repetition. The pieces build through layers of drones (Bella‘s binaural mic and clarinet work on “TUTSIWANIKANANE”; di Lullo’s and Lancelotti’s synths and pads on “NI HEWAN PUSKANI”), making for atmospheric, spacious pieces that recall Cadu Tenório and Márcio Bulk’s 2014 EP Banquete. Over the collection’s 25 minutes, Uma voz… is sonically vivid, entrancing and, at times, almost dancey. All album profits will go directly to Ibã Sales Huni Kuin.

Linn Da Quebrada & BADSISTA – mate & morra (Self-Released)

Relentless sample stabs introduce actress and singer Linn Da Quebrada’s latest single, immediately divulging the identity of its producer and collaborator, BADSISTA. A breathless rifling through of Brazil’s various urban club musics, “mate & morra” squeezes so much into its three and half minutes, it feels more like a whole mixtape than an individual single.

Uiu Lopes, Lau E Eu, Dieguito Reis – Rafa Moreira Me Conhece (Matraca Records)

“Rafa Moreira Me Conhece” is the sonic equivalent of that moment in coming-of-age films when, danced off their feet, the protagonist and his best mates slump, inebriated and beaming, into a snug sofa to confess their love for one another. At a groggy tempo, with lazy drums and subdued bass noodlings, this Uiu Lopes-led collaboration stumble-trips into a smiley shuffle, with a sleepily crooned sing-song chorus. In a hazy stupor, the easy neo-soul groove, held together by Pedro Bienemann’s fluid guitar, sleepwalks through verses of inside jokes, tales of unsuccessful conquests and complicated relationships, before Dieguito Reis concludes at the end of his rapped verse: “Essa parceira é muita pala” (“This relationship is a lot to handle”).“Rafa Moreira Me Conhece” is the sound of three guys goofing around. It’s for that moment at a party when there’s nowhere you’d rather be than flanked by your best mates on a smoke-soaked sofa.

Antonio Neves – A Pegada Agora É Essa (The Sway Now) (Far Out Recordings)

Antonio Neves’ upcoming 2021 full-length A Pegada Agora É Essa (The Sway Now), to be released by Far Out Recordings, promises to herald the emergence of an altogether new force in Brazilian music. That might seem incongruous seeing as the multi-instrumentalist, whose father teaches at L.A.’s Julliard, is no novice of Brazilian jazz. He’s played for the likes of Elza Soares, Hamilton de Holanda and Kassin, and sat at the control desk producing Ana Frango Elétrico’s unanimously acclaimed 2019 record Little Electric Chicken Heart. He also already has a celebrated authorial album under his belt alongside players like Joana Queiroz and Gus Levy. Nevertheless, if early press releases tantalised, the album’s first single delivers what’s been promised: a musical polymath leading a dynamic network of some of Rio de Janeiro’s most adroit and accomplished jazz and contemporary performers. “A Pegada” is a shape-shifting goliath of a single that dextrously flows from breakneck Latin-jazz to fidgety funk and samba, fit with reggae turnarounds and occasional animated vocals. The bass ostinato that starts the piece is urgent and bursts with energy – and there’s no let up for the duration.

Ovo Ou Bicho – Trem (QTV)

The intro to “Trem” (“Train”) sounds like Super Mario winning the jackpot on a two-pence amusement-arcade machine. And, what follows is only more frantic: an utterly compelling, frenzied two minutes of chaotic guitar music which somehow rockets from nostalgic rock and roll, to brittle, boundary-snapping noise music, via Minutemen funk. It’s not for the faint-hearted but Ovo ou Bicho’s freight-train single is a white-knuckle thrill ride. Its B-side is an evermore chaotic live version – a surf-rock splurge that only further exhilarates. 

Chico Bernardes – Em Meu Lugar (Tratore)

Chico Bernardes’ “Em Meu Lugar” is immediately familiar – finger-picked extended- and suspended-chords, syrupy harmonies and occasional swells of Maria Beraldo’s woodwind all weave together gracefully, courtesy of Artur Decloedt’s orchestration. It’s a song that, rooted in a Western folk tradition and illuminating Bernardes’ contemplative guitar and vocals, gives an impression of quiet poignance irrespective of its lyrical content. Its words, though, are sweet, too: a meditation on loneliness written, uncannily, weeks before coronavirus began changing all of our social interactions: “Lembro delas, deles todos/ Moram comigo/ E sempre vão morar”, “I remember them, all of them/ They live with me/ And they will always live.”

Electronic & Club Music

Yan Higa – Sylum (AVNT Recordings)

Yan Higa‘s Sylum is a captivating album of frantic, time-signature-shifting electronic compositions. Commenting on the fluctuating intensities and speeds of passing time experienced during young adulthood, Higa’s knotty compositions do away with organised metre and rhythm, valuing chronological crisis and dislocation instead. As he eloquently explains, “the natural order of matter is ruled by the macro chaos and the micro organizations”. Reversing this, Sylum is an album of fastidiously constructed fragmentation, with tiny fractured motifs juddering in and out of existence within the general melee of static-electricity noise-scapes. It sounds overwhelming and it certainly is. But, for all the tempo changes and melodic fragmentation, evasive yet undeniable hooks – usually delivered via Higa’s highly doctored vocals – suture the tracks together, making them cohesive and, even, catchy. On “Sterile”, auto-tuned mutterings slice through the trickling electronics, bubbling to the surface as bitesize treats. Elsewhere, on “Night Shift”, a fractured synth part helps build a followable groove that frantically accompanies longer arced melody lines.

Aroop Roy – Hustle Do Brasil (Kampana)

When introducing his Danz On mix, I declared Aroop Roy the UK’s most prolific purveyor in the Latin American remix game. Specialising in infectious disco, his productions are certainly floor-fillers nationwide. His latest EP sees him return to Kampana Records with whom he has released whole swathes of Brazilian house and disco reworks – and, this time, joyous disco fist-pumping is on the cards again. On the A-side is an edit building upon a lofi funk sample, beefed up with four-to-the-floor bass and fresh piano stabs. But, it’s the jazz-funk flip-side that, with bright synth solos and background chatter, steals the show.

Jazzanova presents Paz E Futebol 3 – compiled by Junior Santos (Sonar Kollektiv)

Junior Santos is a drummer, selector and music researcher. But, most notably, he is the man behind that Brazilian disco compilation featuring a Brazilian backside scantily-clad in red patent leather on the cover. Via Santos’ Brazilian Disco Boogie Sounds, DJs have brought the disco jewels like Rabo Da Saia’s “Ripa Na Xulipa” and Carlos Dafé’s “Escorpião” to ecstatic audiences worldwide. So, Santos’ involvement on the third instalment of Jazzanova’s thoroughly well-researched Paz E Futebol series was a scintillating prospect. The result, though? Not so hot. Among the ten tracks (eight of which have been collected as a physical release), there are some gorgeous moments. The ebullient bounce of Beto Luiz’s previously unreleased “Uma Canção Que Fale” is infectious; Elza Soares’ animated samba “Som, Amor, Trabalho E Progresso” has a great club-ready bass part; Emílio Santiago’s “Mais Que Um Momento” dazzles with all the production pomp of an A-list disco anthem. But the two closing soul numbers conclude the album with a fizzle. Limp and lacklustre, neither will be missed on the eight-track record.

Various Artists Vol. 1 (Coyribe Records)

Coyribe is the latest São Paulo upstart label to compile a selection of contemporary electronics which showcases the current wealth of Brazilian dance music. Beside more recognisable names like Gop Tun’s TYV and Fractal Moods, Coyribe, intending to “build an ecosystem in the setting of electronic music”, line-up high-octane bass music by lesser known producers. Coyribe founder Ted Cozzo teams up with downtempo tribal producer Zeque Amrita for rolling flute-inflected opener. Early on, Miguez‘s analogue drum break “Sierra Negra” makes for one of the compilation’s most effervescent moments. Meanwhile, Lolla’nzzel‘s atmospheric “Fractais” – an off-kilter melodic house track led by warbling vocals and pulsating minor-key synths – shines later in the collection. It’s not a life-altering compilation by any means, but Coyribe shows the depth – if not the considerable breadth – of contemporary Brazilian club culture.

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