On the Margins

By 06 December, 2023

It’s hot, hot, hot here in Brazil as we endure our climate induced heatwave, however, this month I present for your inquisitive ears: distorted bolha beat, Afro-Brazilian futurism, surreal pagode and queer brega.

Ramon Sucesso – Sexta dos Crias (Lugar Alto)

As São Paulo label Lugar Alto move away from reissues and focus on new material, they have released a baile funk album that is quite unlike what you have heard before. Two side-long compositions where firm Flamengo fan Sucesso, renowned for his literally bass-quaking viral videos, manipulates a DJ controller as a highly skilled turntablist might move around decks and a mixer. Side 1 presents particles of baile tracks from which Sucesso builds a collage of interminable loops creating a chaotic assemblage that keeps you on edge waiting for the beat to drop, drawing it out, building unbearable tension. Side 2 starts with Sucesso excitedly giving out his cell phone number asking for listeners to send him messages, before dropping his trademark bolha beat (an offbeat high-pitched squidgy sound) overlaid with a barrage of filthy catchphrases, childlike choruses and distorted loops. There’s tremendous skill and imagination on display here, considering that much of it sounds improvised. He’s very much an original character in the baile scene, as is displayed in his social media where he can’t contain his delight at having an album released in Europe. Look at who has been buying this on Bandcamp and you can spy some very influential scene figures. 

Cabezadenego, Leyblack e Mbé – MIMOSA (QTV)

Writing a column such as this, one wants to avoid repeating the same artists and labels and always present something new, but when a label is as consistent as QTV then you find yourself involuntarily repeating yourself (see also Lugar Alto above). MIMOSA is a project by multimedia artist, Luiz Felipe Lucas, namely Cabezadenego from Minas Gerais, alongside Mbé and Leyblack, beat-makers and producers from Rio de Janeiro. There are a huge amount of references in this album, which sees itself as a manifesto for the power of Afro-Brazilian rhythms: from candomblé terreiro to samba, while including breakbeat, hardcore and various aspects of baile funk. The album was created during a residency of the three artists at the Etopia Centro de Arte e Tecnologia in Zaragoza, Spain. To me the album seems to tell the story of the Afro-Brazilian beat, starting from unaccompanied African drumming on “Chão” moving onto “Hmm”, which finds the direct link between the tamborzão of baile funk and Africa, and then moving onto the introduction of Miami bass and the 808 breakbeat with “Quinta”. From then on the references and genres merge and “Lance”, near the end, is a manic hardcore rave version of futurist Afro-Brazilian beats, an eye on what’s to come perhaps. This is of course just my interpretation; I highly recommend listening and finding out for yourself.

Satanique Samba Trio – Só Bad (Self released)

More avant-pagode madness from Brasilia’s favourite sons. I love this band’s irreverent humour and the way that they constantly put themselves down while producing some truly original takes on traditional Brazilian genres such as samba and samba jazz. They may describe the music itself as low-fidelity Brazilian music, but there’s a helluva lot more at play here. “Badtriptronics #8” is a short and sweet forró, but like I’ve never heard before, and would like to hear more of at traditional country dances. Nothing outstays its welcome, everything is between a minute and a minute and a half, and within these limitations they play samba as though played by an acoustic Magic Band. As the album develops the tracks seem to become even more demented and deconstructed and, as with the Magic Band, you know they can play their instruments really well, but they just choose to sound like this.

Djalma Corrêa – Baiafro (Tres Selos)

In 1978 Djalma Corrêa’s second album was part of the Música Popular Brasileira Contemporânea (MPBC) series which was originally released on Phonogram with the intention of presenting the new Brazilian instrumental fusion style. This re-release is part of the Tres Selos project that works on a monthly subscription basis and releases long lost gems, as this album, for example, has previously been going for outrageous amounts online. Corrêa worked with Doces Bárbaros and then with Gilberto Gil on Refavela; he is also a renowned researcher of Brazilian traditional music and folklore with a background in electro-acoustic experimentation. On this album he mixes samba de roda with candomblé chanting, all manner of percussion, cuíca, talking drum and gourd piano. There’s plenty of conceptualisation at large, ‘Tudo Madeira’ is played entirely on instruments made of wood,  “Os Quatro Elementos”, the centerpiece of side 2, pays homage to the elements using found sound, Afro-Brazilian drumming, flute and a weird stylophone-type sound, and on “Banjilógrafo”, Corrêa’s homemade instrument of the same name can be heard sounding like a loosely stringed toy guitar.

Various: Red Hot and Ra: Solar (Red Hot org)

As a friend of mine said online, the most surprising thing about this release is that no one thought of it before, because of course the Afro-futurism of Sun Ra’s vision would fit into northeastern cosmic musicianship like the missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle. Recorded between Salvador, Bahia, and São Paulo, there’s a whole bevy of names that contribute: members of Metá Metá, Guarulhos’ own Afro-futurist Edgar, Xuxa Levy and Hamilton de Holanda are just some of the Brazilians, while Meshell Ndegeocello plays on the jazz-fusion-meets-Olodum of “Nature’s Son”. There’s plenty of out-there poetry, both in English and Portuguese, intergalactic synths and fine jazz playing, but the main idea seems to be to take the openness of Sun Ra’s vision to music and run with the idea, leaving lots of room for experimentation and interpretations that are beyond the literal. A name I haven’t seen for a while is Max de Castro, son of Wilson Simonal and a major player in modern MPB in the early noughties. For “Brainville Dazidéia” he reactivates his Orchestra Klaxon and lays down a very funky, brass-driven laid-back groove.

DJ Guaraná Jesus – Marsala Loops (Seloki Records)

This label is really shaping up into an interesting prospect. They’ve just released a sampler that I have yet to investigate, but this release caught my attention due to a) Julio Santa Cecilia’s DJ moniker (Guaraná Jesus is the soft drink from Maranhão and is renowned for being sickly sweet), and b) the very capable contemporary electronic production on display. This EP opens with melodic glitch, progresses into fine house stabs layered with some tastefully applied basslines and finishes with a touch of old school Brazilian Drum n’ Bass, using jazzy chords and a soulful vocal. 

Jaloo – Mau (Elemess)

Jaloo, after a brief hiatus from the public eye, has recently announced herself as being non-binary and returns to the national scene with this proudly queer pop effort. Her mash-ups at the beginning of her career in 2010, which managed to gain her some international attention, were always gender fluid in sound, specifically her debut, the Couve EP, that included a great tecnobrega version of Rihanna’s “Diamonds” amongst others. The EP mashed up tecnobrega from Pará, indietronica and indie pop right when brega was getting international recognition and being touted as the new baile funk, but maybe due to its inherent cheesiness and specific regionalism didn’t quite break out, though it’s influence can be heard throughout Brazilian pop today. So, she returns with this release which is proudly Paranaense LBGTQ+ pop, covered in plenty of brega cheese and very catchy and irresistible. For example, there’s the saucy erotic pop of “Quero te Ver Gozar”, moans included. “Por Que Amor” is pure popcorn pop and there are excursions into house music with “Phonk-Me”. What makes this interesting is the uncompromising way that Jaloo has always presented herself and her productions have always been top-notch, even working within the constraints of what could sound like a Friday night bar band in the Amazon basin.

Rodrigo Ogi – Aleatoriamente (Self-released)

Ogi is a São Paulo rapper, beat-maker and graffiti artist, renowned for his raps which chronicle everyday life with a mixture of reality and fiction and a dash of magic realism. This album is his first work in six years, and the title track (translating as “randomly”) looks at living amongst algorithms, with an excess of information, and having to work in the conditions that late-stage capitalism offers. Ogi wanted a new sonic identity so invited Metá Metá’s Kiko Dinucci for production duties. Dinucci uses an array of samples to create a mixture of punk, electronics and trap beats. There’s also an impressive lineup of guests: Tulipa Ruiz appears on “Peixe” which examines police violence, and Ogi shares vocal duties with Siba on “Valha-me”, which has a terrific driving, rolling beat, taking the track above and beyond the standard hip-hop break beat. Though Dinucci’s production adds some interesting urban grit, in order to create excitement there is a tendency for the tracks to veer into Planet Hemp rap/rock territory, a sound that was absolutely huge 20 years ago, but is frankly not much missed.

Further recommendations:

Objeto Amarelo – Família Vende Tudo (self released)

Carlos Issa, visual artist and music maker for Meta Golova, continues his long running solo project of overdriven noise and drum machine. It is, as always, interesting and worth your time. It’s quite melancholic and dark, however, Issa isn’t afraid to let a high-pitched screeching noise get in the way of a rocking tune in “Sombra Poeira Memória”.

Bruno Berle – “Tirolirole” (Far Out Recordings) 

This is more outstanding acoustic pop from Berle and his first release since last year’s No Reino dos Afetos. Just don’t call this Tropicalia, let’s just say contemporary MPB. A taster from a new album maybe?

MARIÆDUARDA – Nocturn (Tal & Tal records)

Hey, Brazil can do instrumental gothic Witch House too, you know. But you need to be dedicated if you’re going to be all doomy, gloomy and wear black in this heatwave.

The Gilbertos – “Be Quiet”/”Louise” (Midsummer Madness)

An offshoot from 80’s post-punk legends, Fellini, these are two old tracks re-released, and are reliably quaint and delicate indie pop, with “Louise” sounding like a despondent Beach Boys.

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