Comfusoes 1: From Angola To Brasil
US: 7 Jul 2009
UK: 1 Jul 2009
The front cover is so bright and the man on it so shouty that I was expecting something rougher and noisier than the album inside. Comfusões 1 bills itself as a set of Angolan songs from the 1960s and ‘70s remixed by modern Brazilian DJs, and the Angolan music I’ve heard from that period tends toward the light and/or the lamenting, with a natural easy sweetness, a local version of folk styles brought to the country by its Portuguese colonisers. “Light” in this case doesn’t mean unserious. The Portuguese guitar has a peculiar breezelike drift, as if the pull of gravity is so distracted by the song that it has forgotten to exist. Other kinds of music influenced by the Portuguese usually follow that same habit of lightness: the palm-wine style that developed on the West African coastline, where Portuguese sailors docked, and also the flowing morna of Cape Verde, another lusophone ex-colony. I wondered: what had the Brazilians done to those Angolan songs to make them sound the way the illustration suggested they were going to sound: loud, fast, big, abrupt, and pushy?
The answer is that they don’t, which shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Comfusões 1 is quieter and more nuanced than its cover. The DJs do regular DJ things, marking time with electro-bumps and shuffle-grooves, cutting the singing down from connected sentences into repeated phrases, borrowing a short passage from the guitar and extending it, or using it as punctuation or to decorate or counteract the bumps, adding samples of their own, like the Brazilian drumming in “Merengue Rebita”. Yet underneath it all the basic flow of the Angolan originals endures, along with some of their melancholy. The album’s personality sits somewhere between Angolan lament and the more extroverted intervention of the Brazilians. It’s an interesting marriage. A lament needs length to make it work, a sort of lingering aftermath to let the listener know that the singer is going through a course of introspection, and the whole idea of remixes sounds like a contradiction of that. How are you supposed to introspect when the DJ is prodding you with a bump-bump every few seconds?
In the hands of the Brazilians the introspection turns from a statement into a suggestion, its presence alluded to by nicely-chosen samples, like the bits of Artur Nunes that Mario Caldato, Jr. uses in his remix of Nunes’ “Tia”. Caldato gives his audience enough of the quiver in the singer’s voice to let us know that further quivering was taking place in the original song. He adds floating effects of his own which tip you off to an emotional connection between the lightness of Angola and the lightness of Caldato’s own native bossa nova. There’s a new brashness in the song, an absence of the old purity, but there are also layers of sound that weren’t there before, a musical depth though not an emotional one. The lightness has become rooted, more firmly fixed to the ground by cuts and beats. Comfusões 1 is the sound of gravity remembering itself.