On The Margins

By 11 May, 2024

Hi there. Welcome back to a motley collection of ambient samba, trans-gender bruxaria, shamanic drone, and some delightful dub-based techno. There’s bound to be something for everyone this month.

Pandit Pam Pam – Equipe Exploratória Dr Dedé Tempobom na Zona de Convergência Intertropical (Boston Medical Group)

If any good can come from doing this column it would be to shout from the rooftops the work of the Boston Medical Group label to the world. Pandit Pam Pam, or Eduardo Ramos, runs BMG, which has been releasing unclassifiable experimentation since 2019, and this EP is an excellent selection of his late night dub infusions. Ramos has been championed by Kieran Hebden (Four Tet), with whom he toured the UK, playing at the influential Plastic People club. Hebden’s more ambient side would be a reference to the sound of Pandit Pam Pam, but there’s also the ambient dub of Basic Channel and Pole. This EP may have a convoluted title but the tracks are minimalist one-word titles (“Joy”, “First”) and I imagine Ramos in his home studio with his modular synths making these deep immersive tunes using sounds that won’t wake his new-born babies. “Passos” uses ghostly barely-there melodies to convey its feeling of being deep underwater where only bioluminescent creatures lurk; the deep dub-reggae bassline of “Dubist” carries its lo-fi bleeps; and EP closer “Tempobom” has a rolling and tumbling bassline with hushed synth washes. To be listened to with the lights turned off.

Irmãs de Pau – Gambiarra Chic, Pt 1 (Self Released)

Gambiarra is a great Portuguese word, it means a botch job, but something that just about does the job. This is the second album of the Trans funk duo formed by Isma Almeida and Vita Pereira, which covers trap, reggaeton and funk, with production contributions from figures such as Brunoso, Cyberkills, DJ Dayeh and Clementaum. Made while on tour, this differs from conventional – mostly male – funk ostentation, which displays material symbols of financial prosperity, such as cars and jewellery. For the Irmãs de Pau (the Dick Sisters), the ostentation that interests them is more connected to the maintenance and survival of the family, the learning of new knowledge and being able to generate money with their art. Here ostentation enables a visualization of a future that goes way beyond what is commonly associated with transvestite and trans bodies; the construction of new narratives and aesthetics for their stories. “Food Food” pushes the tuin sound of funk bruxaria to the fore, that grating high-pitched sound, notorious for enhancing the woozy effect of lance perfume. “Brasileirinhas Cunty” is six minutes of manically oscillating wild noises that reach an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink finale. The production of MU540 makes “Cussy” another highlight with its Arabic twist. Gambiarra Chic is sonically quite mad but the conversation that Isma and Vita hope to spark is worth listening to.

Tristeza Não Tem Fim – Felicidade Sim (Vitor Brauer)

Although this is labelled as ambient samba, which as intriguing as that sounds, it’s more like Brazilian shoegaze. Another product with the fingerprints of Victor Brauer all over it, in fact, Tristeza Não Tem Fim (the opening line of Tom Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes’ “A Felicidade”) is a lo-fi ambient project formed by Lay Soares, from Tuyo, Chrisley Hernan, from Lutre, and the always prolific Brauer, spokesperson for the Lost Generation of Minas Gerais. Their first album from two years ago was an excellent combination of samba and atmospheric elements, and this six-track EP follows a similar formula, piling on layers of guitars, noises and electronics that are topped off with Soares’ extremely ethereal vocals. Opening with “Eu Não Sonho Mais”, layers of noise and deep rumbling discomfort background a two-note drone composition. “Forgive” and “Cachoeira” are tropical interpretations of early Low and “Mangueira” is a stark delicate number, like something from peak 1980s 4AD, all gossamer vocals, spangly guitar and minimalist backing.

Numa Gama – A Spectral Turn (bié records)

In a hands across the oceans collaboration, bié records from Beijing release these obsessive-sounding productions from this transmedia DJ/producer from Niterói, Rio de Janeiro. First album Me Redesenho had a heavy organic indigenous feel, and her previous album used field recordings, umami beats, and ethereal synths mixed with acoustic instruments. This release is inspired by the hauntology of Derrida, and the post-capitalist instigations of Anna Tsing. The sounds are ghostly and indeed haunting, but the sound is not your classic hauntological nostalgia-based atmospherics, more 90s IDM-influenced soundscapes that could have come from Warp Records’ influential Artificial Intelligence compilation. A track like “Cinza Verão”, for example, is structured like electronic music from this period, but more texturally developed and the skittering melodies more sophisticated. Her voice is heavily treated and warped on “exec (hack)” with its dubby production and breakbeat, the human element once removed, in contrast to the clean vocal presentation on previous albums. “O que é doce no fim” goes full-on 90s, with its rolling acidic melody and scatterbrained drum programming. “C (live)” uses the vocoder “O Superman” effect on her voice with phantasmagoric ambient backing and a descending depth-plumbing bassline. As with all her releases, highly recommended.

Mano Unica – Nascentes (Self released)

Very little in the foreign press has been written about this band from São Paulo and this their second album, which is surprising as you would think that the music here would be catnip for global music fans, since this album manages to encompass all that is good about Latin American music. This is their first album of their own compositions and its political message is portrayed by following the course of a river, “Nascente” being the river source. In the first part the river overflows its banks, incorporating the political cry. The second movement traces the journey of the waters, and in the end the river reaches the sea. It’s a musical tour through Latin America incorporating rhythms like the maracatu, candombe, coco, chacarera, cumbia and ijexá, sung in both Portuguese and Spanish, with tight samba-jazz instrumental arrangements but also with a heavy indigenous influence. They wear their politics on their sleeve: “Guerrilla” addresses the dispute over original territories invaded by society’s colonial system; “Në Waripë” features indigenous rapper Bris Flow, and examines the extermination caused by mining. Brazil often considers itself a separate entity from its neighbours, but as Pedro Rodrigues, percussionist and founder of Mano Unica, says, “For us, Brazil must be understood as an integral part of what is conventionally called Latin America. It is essential that we stop thinking of our national scenario as something separate and that has little dialogue with the rest of the countries that are part of our continent.”

Zopelar – Ritmo Freak (Tartelet)

When talking about the recording of this album, Zopelar refers to his appearance at the Não Existe Festival, playing to a freakily excited crowd during a sudden tropical thunderstorm. Well, I was there in the room and the atmosphere was indeed memorably electric. Watching the trained pianist Zopelar play live you can see the jazz influences in his playing, fingers skillfully running up and down his keyboard. On this release there’s an unmistakable old-skool flavour, cutting a rug with a mixture of upfront house, techno, and electro boogie. It’s quick on its feet and energetic with an undeniable Detroit influence. Lead single “Beat Me” is a solid slice of disco house with hyper energetic handclaps. There’s vintage Detroit techno in the jazz funk of “Gabriellinha’s Boogie” and “Distraction” has a hyper-kinetic swerve and bounce with Carl Craig strings. “Free your Spirit (Ritmo II)” has its heart set on that sweet spot in the middle of the 80s, syncopated drums and handclaps sounding like prime Trax records from Chicago. For “Hotel Room” the party is over and the DJ is by themself back at the hotel, coming down after the buzz of the party with noir sax playing to ambient synth.

Jogo Duro – Jogo Duro (Nublu Records)

The Nublu Jazz Festival, presented in partnership with the SESC organisation, was always an important date in the calendar for forward-looking music in São Paulo, but it ran its course and the pandemic finished off its 10 year stint. Turkish saxophonist Ilhan Ersahin is the owner of the club and record label Nublu, and this album is the result of his time spent in São Paulo over the last decade promoting the festival. Jogo Duro is a collaboration between Ersahin and a motley crue of São Paulo based musicians, including Guizado on trumpet, Zé Nigro on bass, and the double drum attack of Tony Gordin and Samuel Fraga. These friendships were made throughout the life of the festival and came together for this album which has pretty solid 70s fusion influences created from spontaneously improvised sessions. For example, “Pebolim” is Sextant-period Herbie Hancock with a low slung funky bass line from the Headhunters. There’s also some Miles Davis electric-era fusion, “Quebra Queixo” for example, with Miles-like treated trumpet blasts, darkly wobbling synth sounds and even a rock-infused guitar solo.

MNTH – Lume Púrpuro (Desmonta)

MNTH is musician and producer Luciano Valério, co-founder of underground São Paulo record label Desmonta, located in Guarulhos, a satellite city of São Paulo that’s basically been swallowed up by the megapolis. This album continues his experiments with improvised tunes that are then structured into instrumental compositions that build with all kinds of queasy noises and pounding percussion filtered through a thick molasses of analog and digital textures. A case in point is the video and single premiered here at Sounds and Colours, “Inclinação ao Silencio”, where churning grainy loops lead us into the track, a melody appears picked out by what sounds like a mandolin backed by a distant vocal chant, a guitar falls over at one point, and then it’s over. Percussion is provided by the mighty Mauricio Takara and his partner Carla Boregas contributes some organ. “Cabo de Força” is an exhilarating dirt-encrusted tribal drum affair and “Grilado” has a startling melody underneath all the thick decaying textures and glitchy breakbeat. So much here to keep your ears busy. 

Ricardo Dias Gomes x Domenico Lancelloti – Remixes (Mais Um discos/Hive Mind)

Dias Gomes and Lancellotti remix a selection of each other’s tracks from their respective critically acclaimed (certainly here anyway) albums from last year, the excellent Muito Sol by Dias Gomes and Lancelloti’s just as good Sramba, both recorded at their Cave studio in Lisbon, Portugal. Both artists deconstruct each other’s music in interesting manners but as the pair are inseparable producers I wonder how much of it is both of them reworking each other’s material together, looking over each other’s shoulder as they reshape their tunes. Lancelloti’s “Florescer” has its brass pushed to the fore with an upbeat Casio drum rhythm, and Dias Gomes doesn’t shy away from noise and a bit of chaos on “Erê”. Lancelloti takes Dias Gomes’ amazing drone track “Fllux” and uses it for the buzzing background of a shamanistic Ayahuascan ritual. As it’s always a pleasure to revisit the songs by these musicians, this is worthy sister release to both of their albums.

Also of interest

Fênix e as Cinzas – Fogo-Fátuo (Self Released)

This alternative rock band from São Paulo have heavy 80s and 90s influences, with upfront bass and a nice line in driving anthemic tunes. They list Sonic Youth and Pixies as some of their influences but I hear more Bauhaus crossed with Dinosaur Jr.  While their sound is not astoundingly original, maybe a bit more of the Youths’ atonal squall would lift this above the ordinary.

DJ Alex BNH – 30 Billion DJ Alex BNH fans can’t be wrong (G Music)

Another artist-focused compilation of São Paulo funk for the international market. The Fall/Elvis-referencing title refers to the fact that the artist has a total of 30 billion streams, not quite the same thing, but you have to admire the audacity. This is as good as it gets mandelão, straight from the DZ7 street raves, characterized by repetitive and raw (i.e. filthy) lyrics, minimal production with distorted booming bass.

AgaTagA – AgaTagA (Brava)

A duo of Guilherme Pacola, on drums and objects, from Vermes do Limbo (SP) and Marcos Campello from the excellent Chinese Cookie Poets (RJ), a project in which he would draw out some extremely otherworldly noises on guitar. This is a collection of spontaneous compositions of tortured guitar noise and maddeningly scattered drumming, recorded in April, so it’s as fresh as daisy. if, like me, that sounds up your street, there’s much to enjoy amongst the guitar scratches, droning distortion and clattering drums.

Follow Sounds and Colours: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Mixcloud / Soundcloud / Bandcamp

Subscribe to the Sounds and Colours Newsletter for regular updates, news and competitions bringing the best of Latin American culture direct to your Inbox.