Don Day Don Dree Don Don
Adventures in Samba Soul
US: 12 May 2009
The blurb on the back tells us that Márcio Local has “forge[d] new variations of samba-soul,” yet anyone who’s heard some of his inspirations—particularly Jorge Benjor—is likely to feel that they’ve arrived in a familiar place and that nothing dramatically new is being forged. They’re not likely to exclaim, “Astonishing, how utterly unconventional!” although the way he occasionally raps his lyrics might make them murmur, “Hmm, listen to that.” Probably they’ll be pleased to hear that a style of music decades old is still powering along, changing shape a little as it goes, but still fundamentally there, very recognisably it.
“It’s like Jorge Ben,” they might say. “Not him exactly, you know, but sort of. A similar idea. The samba sound, that hey-get-up jump, the drumming, the snatches and blasts of soul-brass, the whistles, the coaxing voice… Local is more laid-back though. Rod Stewart won’t be stealing his songs any time soon, the way he did with Benjor’s ‘Taj Mahal’. I can’t remember any of Local’s tracks off the top of my head, not the way you do after you’ve heard the best of Ben. Local doesn’t have that same, I don’t know—that ability to create a hook so compelling that it seems to exist independently of the song itself, so that it feels as if the whole song has been brought into existence purely to get this little dum de de doo into the world. Think of the fortunes that have been built on a dum de de doo. Well, he comes close to it with ‘Preta Luxo’, but even that sounds like an echo of other songs. What—do I like it nonetheless? Yes. Why not, it’s fun, and isn’t that what this music is supposed to be, before anything else? Well, intelligence is nice as well, and politics and innovation and so on, but—yes—fun, movement, action.”
Non-Brazilians who have not heard Benjor but are familiar with the more recent career of Seu Jorge might be intrigued to hear that familiar, finicky guitar sound swelling into something larger. “It’s like Jorge,” they might say, “keeping the intricacy, but bulging out, huge, with trumpets and hooting and this frilly falsetto he’s got and… tonnes of other things. An expansive music with precision sitting at the centre. Interesting.” Lips pursed in a hmm expression, they nod wisely.
The album starts with the three songs that were on the teaser EP Luaka Bop released last October. They make a relaxed opening, peppery with percussion. Later on, there’s a track built around the massive rattle of Brazilian drums, such a thunderstorm of drumming that it almost eats the song alive. After that the album starts to go in less-expected directions. It embarks on a series of songs that are like one-off experiments. “Represento” is the sound of Local asking himself what would happen if he tried out a samba-rap-funk and then answering the same question. “Suingue Dominou” brings in a steel guitar and a new male singer who burps out the lyrics like a toad coming up through mud into air. It’s as if they had three-fourths of an album clearly laid out and then realised that there were still a few good songs left lying around spare, so, well, why not have them in there too?
Márcio Local is not as radical as the packaging would like you to believe, but there’s such delight and energy in everything he does that if he has a success with this album it will be hard to grudge him his good luck.
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// Notes from the Road
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