Yesterday, legendary Brazilian musician Erasmo Carlos passed away at 81. Simultaneously proto-Tropicalia and post-Tropicalia, his trilogy of releases from 1970 to 1972 embody an indie aesthetic of twangling guitars and cosmic laid-backness that, rather than merely mimicking (and being subsumed by) American trends, may fit completely in an admirable tradition of obscure para-country balladeers, with Robert Lester Folsom, F.J. McMahon, and others.
Oghneya is one of the most interesting recent additions to the impressive catalog of Habibi Funk, a label that aims to circulate Arab funk and soul records from the 1960-80s to a global audience. Originally released in 1978 by the Issam Hajali-lead Lebanese trio Ferkat Al Ard, the record maintains the modes and melismas so associated with Arabic music while entertaining cinematic orchestral arrangements within a pop psych-folk compositional framework.
SOYUZ’s Force of the Wind is an imitation of the Brazilian Clube da Esquina scene of the 1970s, in the sense that it adheres to certain aesthetic principles and compositional signifiers associated with that group. It even explicitly names its models: Milton Nascimento, Lô Borges, Burnier & Cartier, Arthur Verocai. Yet it’s clear that any appropriation of Brazilian music is careful and loving, as Alex Chumak wants to not only pay homage to the 1970s MPB that fascinates him, but to play with its grammar, extend it, renovate it. To sound Brazilian yet not Brazilian, as he explains.
Pad tries to solve the same dilemma of the pop music that influences it: how does one follow a recipe for composition without becoming formulaic? How can we carefully engineer simplicity; forge, out of patterns of predictability, some original and compelling songs? With Pad, the answer lies within the ingenious little refrains of synth, which form a homogeneous blanket that continually pours over the arrangements of bells, drums, and nostalgic vocals.
As Fantasma do Cerrado, Rafael Stan Molina creates sound mosaics that oscillate between pop song forms and exploratory ambient recordings. Nowhere is this dialectic more explicit than in “Catanduva”, where suave folk is suddenly broken by an explosion of strange shapes, and simple melodies alternate with wild and sparse modulations reminiscent of the the unexpected turns of Jim O’Rourke’s compositions
Hidden Waters, the recent vinyl compilation of new Brazilian music by Sounds & Colours, offers a dreamscape view of the alternative music scene that has recently bloomed around the Audio Rebel studio in Rio de Janeiro. From established icons of ‘nova MPB’ like Kassin and Letrux to up-and-coming artists like Raquel Dimantas and Os Ritmistas, and from the serene soul pop of Jonas Sá and Marcello Callado to the abrasive noise experimentalism of Cadu Tenório & Juçara Marçal and Ava Rocha.
During the 1970s, Brazilian luminaires Sá, Rodrix & Guarabyra invented what they called “rural rock” as a mixture of anglophone folk rock and música caipira (an umbrella term for the Iberian-descending, acoustic-guitar-based musics from the countryside of Brazil). In 1974, Rodrix dropped the band and Sá & Guarabyra continued as a duo, detaching themselves even further from conventional MPB and going simultaneously more regional, towards genres like sertanejo de raiz and xote, and more pop, towards the esoteric country ballads of Van Morrison or JJ Cale.
Legendary composer and arranger Wagner Tiso is one of the most underrated figures in Brazilian music history. Tiso led the Clube da Esquina scene in the 1970s, and although his name is scarcely mentioned in international guides to the movement, his maximalist aesthetics and chamber music influences are deeply engraved in all of Clube da Esquina releases.
Zach Phillips’ OSR Tapes is probably among the most admired contemporary labels you’ve never heard of. Defining Phillips’ style in one paragraph is as hard as summarizing the history of the dozens of pseudonyms he has composed under.
For this interview we caught up with Philips to discuss institutional experiments with labels, his relation to South American music, his poetry and friends in New York, his imagination of harmony, Agamben’s messianism, and more …
Wandering through the freakier terrains of psych folk, math fusion and afrobeat/chimurenga, if earlier Cambriana sounded anglophilic in its attempt at ‘universality’, now – as international indie seems itself closer and closer to MPB – Cambriana sounds more Brazilian than ever.
Whether ordering glitchy breaks and riffs, or sampling the noise of kitchen utensils and of a cavaquinho (the traditional mini-guitar of samba), M. Takara’s Puro Osso produces a certain ambience both reminiscent of Tom Zé and the electronic prayers found in the work of Boards of Canada (or, more recently, in Kara-Lis Coverdale or Ana Roxanne).
Born into a family of musicians, Alberto Continentino made a name for himself playing in backup bands for legendary Brazilian artists like Milton Nascimento, Caetano Veloso and Marcos Valle. His solo work, however, isn’t far below. While 2018’s Ultraleve delves deep into the Brazilian jazz tradition of Azymuth, 2015′ Ao Som Dos Planetas delivers a modern synthesis of bossa nova and indie pop that sounds like a more grounded version of Stereolab, The High Llamas or Giorgio Tuma.
As Mondrongo, Julio Santa Cecilia creates soothing tape music for the 21st century. Even when the textures sound digital, the structure of the tracks are tangible, organic and telluric, as if they somehow had been hand cut and glued together again within the DAW. Loops with ghostly bits of piano find loose, broken snares that are quiet and nebulous enough not to disturb the harmonic core of the songs, until they suddenly become the very center of those songs.
Over the course of its first side, Hermit’s Grove answers the question of what a collaboration of Pharoah Sanders, Ian Carr, and Caetano Veloso would sound like. By the time you reach this conclusion, the group launches into a stoney rendition of Baden Powell and Vinicius de Moraes’s “Canto de Iemanja.”
In 1969, Uruguayan musician Eduardo Mateo joined with poet, actor, and theatre director Horacio Buscaglia to create Musicasión—a collection of fourteen performances over four productions, featuring musicians from Mateo’s band El Kinto and other artists from around the country. An album, released in 1971, comprises these performances and this week, thanks to the efforts of Juana Molina and Crammed Discs, sees a slightly belated 50th anniversary reissue, featuring 16 previously unreleased tracks.