It should come as no surprise that the music of Brazil has become the inspiration for a surprisingly large subgenre of electronic music. Popular electronic music has become almost synonymous with the notion of dance music, and the national musics of Brazil are almost unparalleled in their ability to inspire otherwise club-footed Caucasians to dance. Be it the bossa nova or the samba or the straight tango, the rhythms of South America continue to bewitch an international generation of producers and artists. The Brazilectro series, now on its seventh installment, is dedicated to exploring the intersection between the national music of Brazil and the sound of the international club scene.
The tracks included span the gulf between minimal, dub-influenced trip-hop to lushly-produced pop. A track like “Into My Soul” by Gabin feat. Dee Dee Bridgewater, with its spry, radio-friendly pop-jazz energy, can rest comfortably next to the L.T.J X-Perience’s edit of Marco di Marco’s “Fontana Blue”, a moody, stripped-down house track featuring a loping, looped bassline that reminds me very strongly of Zero dB’s distinctive sound. One can easily imagine the former being licensed for use in television advertisements, while the latter may be more suited for an appearance in a DJ’s late-night downtempo set. Both tracks obviously trace their lineage to Brazil’s specific mixture of indigenous and foreign influences, with traces of European, African, native Brazilian and Carribean musics freely commingling.
The Dubben mix of Juca Chaves’ “Take Me Back to Piaui” mixes the acoustic bossa nova with the dub reggae of Jamaica. The result is surprisingly organic, less the product of a calculated mash-up than what seems to be yet another in the long line of natural, home-grown hybrids that have exploded across Central and Southern America—think Baile funk or reggaeton. Bebel Gilberto—heiress to the bossa nova legacy of the legendary Joao Gilberto, and herself no stranger to international remix culture—appears with the Latin Project mix of her “Aganju”, which takes the track in a slightly more cosmopolitan direction, adding a midtempo beat and creating something recognizably pop, the likes of which would not (save for the language difference) sound out of place on any adult contemporary radio station across the globe (which, in this context, is hardly intended as a pejorative remark).
Otto’s “Pra Quem Ta Quente” features Portuguese rapping / singing over the kind of funky, smoked-out beat that any backpack hip-hopper would recognize. Speaking of smoked-out, Richard Dorfmeister himself shows up (in the company of Madrid de los Austrias), to present one of the disc’s undeniable highlights, “Valldemossa”. This is an irresistibly funky, jazz-infused dance track that builds off an Afrobeat-influenced samba rhythm to lay down a monumental groove—at seven and a half minutes, the track does not outstay its welcome. BiD joins forces with Seu Jorge (fresh off his success with the Bowie-centric soundtrack to Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic) for “E Depois”, a truly suave example of samba-infused R&B, exactly like what you would have expected Barry White to produce had he been born a few thousand miles to the south.
The Quantic remix of Gecko Turner’s “Un Limon En La Cabeza” presents Turner’s comparatively orthodox bossa nova in the context of a hip-hop beat. The resulting hybrid utilizes the full strengths of hip-hop’s eclectic, sample-oriented nature, producing a complex and winning bit of international collage. The hip-hop theme continues with the Washington, DC-based Fort Knox Five’s remix of Rex Riddim feat. Carlos Scorpiao’s “Salvador Diaspora”.
Before concluding, the album returns to the dancefloor with Phuturistix’s “Cohiba”, a loping Afro-house track that seems to have been constructed from the DNA of ‘70s fusion, as well as Mark Pritchard’s epic broken-beat remix of Azymuth’s “Pieces of Ipanema”. Ultimately, the sound of Brazilectro is as much or more about the ubiquitous influence of international modes—house and hip-hop—as indigenous expression. An album like this could only be the product of a healthy global market for multiculturalism. The liner notes for Brazilectro 7 are presented in both English and German, which should give you an idea of the album’s globe-trotting appeal. Globalization doesn’t have to be a bad thing.