Curumin: JapanPopShow

[5 May 2008]

By Andrew Martin

It’s clear at this point that Quannum Projects’ roster is one of the country’s best when it comes to providing diverse and innovative music. From DJ Shadow’s schizophrenic output to the smooth and excessively fun Pigeon John records, every artist has something different to contribute. And Brazil’s Curumin is no different.

Born to Spanish and Japanese parents, Curumin began discovering music from across the globe in the 1970s. His lust for music drew him to playing the pots and pans in his first band at age eight. Six years later, he was providing the beats as a percussionist in clubs in Sao Paulo. He also taught himself how to play keyboards. He continued to learn and grow as a musician in Gaviões da Fiel, a Brazilian music school. In between lessons on the history of popular Brazilian music, or Musica Popular Brasileira, he studied American acts like Run DMC and the B-52s. The multi-instrumentalist joined several bands including Toca and Zomba, with the latter eventually becoming Curumin’s solo project. He then dropped his funky, samba-influenced debut, Achados e Perdidos, in 2005.

Now, it is three years later and Curumin is primed and ready to tackle releasing the dreaded sophomore album. And luckily for him, he has nothing to worry about with JapanPopShow. It’s not likely to catch on with the general public, but those with an ear for eclectic, worldly pop music are in for a treat. He even might catch on with underground hip-hop heads, who will appreciate his DJ Shadow-esque “Salto No Vacuo Com Joelhada”. Additionally, labelmates Lateef the Truth Speaker and Blackalicious’ Gift of Gab stop by on “Kyoto” to increase Curumin’s appeal.

Unless you speak Portuguese, you will be hard pressed to understand a lot of JapanPopShow‘s lyrics. But, like any talented artist, Curumin lets his music speak for itself while the singing provides extra tone and feeling. Think of him as a less off-the-wall, more focused Cornelius.

The perfect example here is “Misterio Stereo”, which features Curumin’s somber vocals over floaty synths to create a track of Air’s Talkie Walkie proportions. Then there is the funky M.I.A. dance number “Caixa Preta”. Curumin sounds right at home as the drums and bass bounce off each other. You can almost picture the packed club of hipsters grooving right along as he dances around the stage. The same praise can be said for “Magrela Fever”, a classic rock anthem straight out of the ‘70s and perfect for those long summer days. Also worth mentioning is the jazzed-out “Funanchu”, which rounds out the 44-minute listen perfectly.

Like any truly enjoyable pop album, JapanPopShow has something for everyone. And even though it reaches too far on some tracks, like the dull “Mal Estar Card”, Curumin ultimately has crafted a unique second record. The only problem with such a scattered album is that it ends up lacking a cohesive feel. The 13 tracks hardly repeat the same style with everything from electro-dance-pop to rock to hip-hop to jazz. While it’s not exactly a knock on the overall effort, a more refined direction could help Curumin appeal to a broader audience. But, as you can probably imagine, that’s not likely to be something he is worried about.

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