On the Margins

By 04 October, 2023

Hi there, hope you’re well and keeping it together. Here is some music from the outer reaches of the Brazilian landscape. On offer there is some cool ambient, lots of Orixa-inspired rhythmic goodness, abstract grindcore, “Chill baile”, and some very stimulating electro-punk.

Eduardo Manso – Cumulonimbus (QTV Selo)

Coming on strong with layers of drums, jagged synths and extensive overdubs, this makes for another essential release from the always compelling QTV. Eduardo Manso is from Rio de Janeiro, he’s played with Rabotnik, Binário, Bemônio, and Meia Banda. As one of the founders of the QTV Selo, he’s produced albums for artists such as Ava Rocha and Negro Leo, among others, and recorded free improvisation with Paal Nilssen-Love and Cadu Tenório. I recently saw him live playing with the RELA project alongside Negro Leo and Cøelho, and it was a fascinating hybrid of noisy electronics, improv and a pinch of old school hip hop. Manso references French experimentalist Heldon in his release but there are hints of Krautrock, especially the early more experimental releases by producer Conrad Schnitzler and Kluster. The first four tracks are built around an Arp Odyssey and a sequencer and are tightly dramatic compositions, while final track “Tabernanthe Iboga”, a long drawn out drone piece that has elements of a shamanic ritual, uses layers of guitars and includes the voice of Ava Rocha.

Meta GolovaTempo Mutilação (Self-released) 

This is great electronic punk with aggressive, pounding Suicide-like synths. The hard rolling Slavic consonants of vocalist Lena Kilina work perfectly with the distorted backing tracks that artist Carlos Issa has put together. Issa’s is known(ish) for his long-running cult noise project, Objeto Amarelo, which I have endlessly plugged and championed, but for me this his most enjoyable work for a few years, and that’s speaking as someone who always finds his releases interesting. With this new project, he sounds like he’s having a lot of fun. “Dusty AC” is an eldritch brooding number, tense and tightly wound; “Na Trone” is gothic 80s EBM with a soaring chorus. Highlight for me though is the 12-minute “Stairs”, where all the ideas come to fruition: an exciting dance beat, dark lyrics, a two-note riff, but as it develops it turns into a different monster altogether as Kilina becomes more demented and Issa strips the track right down. They’re gigging like crazy all over São Paulo; catch them while you can.

GhalesPrece (Torto discos)

Torto are a fascinating tiny indie label coming out of Brasilia who release all manner of avant-rock, Hermeto-Pascoal-adjacent jazz, and this mid-tempo ambient affair, and I suspect that they are somehow related to those devilish pranksters Satanique Samba Trio. The releases are given a physical edition in distinctive fold out sleeves if there is enough demand. Ghales uses code to create these purely instrumental tracks and claims he’s part of an underground live-coding and algorave scene. Some frantic Googling and I discover that the algorave scene is where people go to dance to algorithm-generated music created through live coding, video projections show the coding and manipulated algorithms as they happen. It’s basically a new dynamic way of presenting live electronic music, though I guess you’re still watching people play laptops. Anyway, this album is an entrancing collection of autumnal ambient pieces with minimal beats and no hard edges. It glides along with its bright cosy melodies, some overlaid with guitar accompaniment. This lone producer surely deserves to be listened to much more.

Test Derrama Outro (Ultra Gash Records)

I’ve been wanting to write something about the duo Test for a while, so now I can take advantage of this release, though it is far from a typical release by them – but then again, what is? João Kombi plays guitar and Barata is on drums in what is basically a grindcore band, but also much more. They have released an album as an interactive game with each of the tracks’ separate parts to be listened to at random, or as the listener decides, forming their own phrases from the titles. Recently they performed as a big band which I would have loved to have seen, Barata after all is considered one of the best drummers in Brazilian rock. This EP, however,  presents remixes of the opening track from their 4th album, “Disco Normal”. I say remixes, but they are deconstructions: Fernando Catatau from Cidadão Instigado totally dismantles the original, leaving it in pieces on the floor. There are many different versions of the original, but my favourite is the 3RROR D4T4 remix which is hard n’ heavy hip hop, like ’90s Techno Animal. It says it was recorded in the streets, under the overpass, and in a train carriage, and frankly it sounds like it.

Carlos do ComplexoRemixexs II (Self-released)

Carlos comes from the complex of favelas in the north of Rio. He’s part of the generation of DJs and producers who would upload their productions to SoundCloud in the 2010s, and which included Badsista and Vhoor, all of whom expanded the definition of what is known as Brazilian bass music. However, as a producer and purveyor of Chill Baile, as he has denominated his sound, I think he’s on a whole other level. Just listen to his 2021 album Torus in which he demonstrated his sleek assured production, making him for me one of the most interesting producers coming out of Rio. He can handle a wide variety of styles, from progressive Bass music, BR (rather than UK) garage, to piano house, all blank canvases for his brush strokes. This is a second EP of remixes he’s made for DJing where the tunes are on an Afrobeat tip at around 100 BPM. They’re all bangers and there’s even a Beyonce mashup thrown in for luck. A fascinatingly assured producer who has his pulse firmly on what is popular, current and totally accessible.

When Damien meets Suitcase Bob – Cartas de Catalunya (Ornette Coleman Fiend Club)

This is a multi-media project consisting of cassette tape/ zine/ film released by Detroit label Ornette Coleman Fiend Club, a previously unknown quantity to me. It’s a mixtape project with its roots firmly in experimental ’90s hip-hop. Bruno Abdala and Fernando ‘Dinho’ Almeida (Boogarins) are Cartas de Catalunya but there are also contributions from fellow avant-gardists Maurício Takara, Thomas Rohrer, Jhonny Aguiar, and Bernardo Pacheco. It’s two sides of cut-up collage bizness, featuring short extracts set to boom-bap beats with hallucinogenic effects, slurred voices, shouted interjections and some really exciting unexpected experimental noises. It comes together in an aesthetic result where at any moment you can hear rap, free jazz, unconventional electronic music, digital dub and even a little bit of rock. It’s worth sticking with as side B has even more surprises than side A.

Serena AssumpçãoAscensão (Day Dreamer)

This was originally released on the SESC label as a CD back in 2016, and now UK label Day Dreamer have rereleased it on vinyl and cassette, so it’s well worth revisiting and discovering anew. Serena Assumpção, daughter of Itamar Assumpção, now sadly passed away due to breast cancer, believed that we all are, essentially, spiritual beings. And this album, of spiritual chants and candomblé drum patterns just oozes with vibrational energy and Yorùbá (Nagô) cosmogony.  As with the work of Iara Renno, the Orishas and the sacred energy of axé are summoned. The ascension in the title refers to the ability to elevate oneself to the invisible realm, and to heal the visible realm. This is Ascensão.  Assumpção harmoniously combines voices, musical cycles, chants, energy and sounds with the Afro-Brazilian faith of Candomblé to create a 50-minute meditation. She has the aid of an incredible line up of collaborators including Moreno Veloso, Kiko Dinucci, Thiago França, Curumin, Céu, Tulipa Ruiz; anyone producing modern cutting edge MPB jumps in and gives a helping hand. This was released posthumously, but what a beautiful legacy to leave behind. Axé indeed.

ÀIYÉ  – Transes (Balaclava Records)

Balaclava Records have a roster that is more indie-oriented, but this release stands out from their crowd for me. ÀIYÉ is a project of Larissa Conforto, a Brazilian sound artist, drummer, composer and DJ. Amongst her work there is sound ethnography, futuristic ancestry, rhythmic collage, and acoustic beat making (so drumming, then). If you want a respite from some of the noise on offer here this is a pretty good option. The songs are highly melodic with a constant rhythmic drumming accompanying Àiye’s strong voice. As with the Serena Assumpção album the orixas are an inspiration, using the concept of these superior beings to understand what is happening on earth. There is the meeting of elements of the Iorubá culture with electronic soundscapes influenced by ijexá, samba and axé. These combine particularly well on “Xangô”, with its complex drumming and uplifting chorus, and “Pomba Gira (Ela Reina)” has some tasteful electronic textures.

Arubu AvuaSujos Brilhos (Unguarded)

Released by arty German label on cassette, Sujos Brilhos, which translates as tarnished shine, is a curious offering of minimalist guitar-driven compositions infused with abstract, and at times, discordant instrumental sequences. Arubu Avua is the nom de plume of Victor Negri, and he has artfully incorporated a melange of diverse influences spanning free folk, Clube da Esquina-style songwriting, noise, ambient, and experimental electronics. The result is solidly unconventional, steeped in a DIY, lo-fi aesthetic. His delicate singing voice is accompanied by strummed acoustic guitar and there are disconcerting electronic pulses and clicks lurking in the background. In the title track, these sounds come to the fore and dominate the proceedings. A strange idiosyncratic recording that is worth investigating.

Further recommendations:

Pandit Pam Pam – “Sima Says” (Boston Medical Group)

A hint of rumba in this deep ambient cocktail. A new album wouldn’t go amiss.

Belagio – Entradas para Sair (Boston Medical Group)

Another full length from Dr Pata offering balm for the soul. Regretfully I missed his live show at the (excellent) Não Existe festival recently; my loss.

Akira Umeda – Festers (Self-released)

Umeda’s Bandcamp page is an absolute goldmine of ambient and experimental electronica. Just listen to this recent release to get some idea of what he’s up to.

Daniel Brita – Britadeira (Amplifica Records)

Eclectic is not a strong enough word for this album, as you’ll hear anything from hardcore punk, Zappaesque left turns alongside mad piano compositions. Well worth a listen.

Madre – “Caos”/”Transe” (Seloki Records)

Noisy indie-rock double A-side single from this enterprising label, which waves the Sonic Youth flag.

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