[21 August 2008]
This is probably the furthest out Far Out have yet gone in their mission to bring a little bit of Brazil to a sodden British summer, proffering “psychedelic soul from the screaming, sunburnt plains of your tangled mind…” (which, in a Brazilian accent, just about sounds cliché-free). More readily identified with new recordings from old-timers (Marcos Valle, Joyce, Os Ipanemas etc.), for one album only they’ve given carte blanche to obscurica excavator/Finders Keepers proprietor Andy Votel.
Unsurprisingly, then, there’s no cherry-blossom bossa here, although there is Marcos Valle under the banner of Trio Soneca, um pouco diferente, but then that’s because he’s doing the theme tune to Vila Sésamo—a loping slice of freak-funk going under the title “Funga-Funga”, with a fuzzy-folk companion in “Os Bichos” (surprising that Trunk didn’t get to this stuff first). Raising his decks above what he dubs “the eBay trophy collectors stampede,” Votel embraces the unloved detritus of Brazilian soaps, straight-to-TV movies, and song contests.
Not that he’s the first to go beyond the obvious—if you wore out your copy of last year’s Soul Jazz mastercomp, Brazil `70, this is your next port of call, digging up more revelations from the mighty Novos Baianos (check out the Valley of the Dolls-like, beat group revisionism of “Ferro na Boneca”), and from the lesser heard vaults of Som Livre and RGE in general. While you might just have heard Novos Baianos’s “Tinindo-Trincado” (the funkiest Brazilian rock song ever recorded?), unless you’re as undaunted a crate digger as Votel, chances are you won’t have heard much else. No Gilberto Gil or Caetano Veloso? Gasp.. not even Trio Mocotó? Nope, and nope. Azimuth—before they were Azymuth—make an appearance with the monster-bass prog-funk of “Periscópio”, and late-model Mutantes—after the Os—make the cut with the catchily titled “Deixa Entrar Um Pouco D’ Agua no Quintal” (think Emerson, Lake & Palmer playing beach volleyball), but it’s the hopelessly obscure that take the prizes: the Avenida Atlântica-cruising brilliance of Perry Ribeiro’s “Ciladas”, a veritable sugar loaf of tiered harmonies laaa-la-la-la-la-la-ing through the years like so much styrofoam saudade; the radical reworking of MPB standard “Se Você Pensa”; the brilliant, almost dub-reggae, superflange-singalong of Os Brazões’ “Feitiço”; or the Jorge Ben-ish, vowel-gargling, brink-of-scat brilliance of, well…a track near the end.
But it’s exactly that ability to extemporize on a beat, or just a syllable, that makes Brazilian rock and psychedelia so different from its Anglo-American equivalent, and perhaps—fashionista herd-mentality aside—why the media went almost as daft over the recent Os Mutantes gigs as they did over the Led Zeppelin reformation. While Anglo-Saxon traditionally tends to the heavy of vibe, Brazilian feels good despite itself, a rebel without a scowl, just because it can’t hold one down for long enough.
While Gerson Conrad and Zezé Motta’s “1974” pretty much opens proceedings with all guitars blazing a la mid-period Aerosmith, the kind of bands Votel mixes up here couldn’t have been dinosaurs even if they’d wanted to, and as the man who managed to wring the funk from the hoary old vaults of Vertigo, this stuff slips through his mixer like a machete through coconut. Spiced up with Portuguese and gloriously accented English dialogue/b-movie snippets, it makes for an hour’s worth of sonic reconstruction that leaves you feeling a million dollars, from your flip-flops to your fringe. It really is that good, and it might’ve been even better if Votel wasn’t quite so enthusiastic: about the only criticism you can level at this record is the amount of song-snippets crammed into it, but when the supposed b-music is as good as its compiled-to-death equivalent, as endlessly playable and criminally under-exposed as this, you can’t hold it against him. The Brazilian compilation lives.