Various Artists: Rough Guide to Psychedelic Brazil

A musical kaleidoscope of lysergic leisure! Perhaps they should have printed the inserts on blotter paper.

Various Artist

Rough Guide to Psychedelic Brazil

Label: World Music Network
US Release Date: 2013-05-28
UK Release Date: 2013-05-27
Label website

When the country of Brazil is mentioned in a conversation, the mental pictures that are instantly conjured are not directly those of a musical nature. The go-to scenes that tend to flash in the mind's eye normally include the high-octane carnival atmosphere, one of the world's greatest football nations, and the fabled, inherently voluptuous women wading through thigh-high water in next-to-nothing bikinis. Of course, we can't forget the "Big Jesus", the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer standing majestic and watchful over Rio de Janeiro (ironically), one of the most casually lascivious cities on Earth.

Musically speaking it's hard to think of anything but "The Girl From Ipanema" or unadulterated Samba coming through the speakers of any café or bar serving up Caipirinhas. Consequently, psychedelic rock is not a readily associated phenomenon that we attribute to the world's largest Latin country.

Yet, rock music of all types has thrived in Brazil, including psych-garage. And why should it not? After all, many of the elements that fueled youth counter-culture in the 'Age of Aquarius' were as pronounced (if not more so) in Brazil -- which has existed under an actual military state -- than they were here in the United States. That and the proximity to near-infinite Ayahuasca resources in Brazil's neighboring rainforests make her a fertile ground for psych-rock to flourish. And flourish it did, unlike in North America, where it died out shortly after lava-lamps, bell-bottoms and windowpane acid were exchanged for disco-balls, leisure suits and cocaine.

Brazil's psychotropic pantheon clearly took musical cues from Britain's hippy-dippy paisley age (mainly), but still kept a notable cultural identity. As a result, the creation of movements such as Jovem Guarda and tropicalia (Brazil's cultural Avant-Garde) took place, enshrining freedom rock in the country’s music history forevermore. This assemblage of tracks (stemming back to the '60s) serves as an outline of that country's freak-scene trajectory.

The selections on this compilation make for a pleasing listening experience that transcends language barriers, thanks to the linguistic charm of the Portuguese tongue. A couple of tracks permeate a pedestrian, Starbucks background-music vibe, such as the jangly alt-rock of Laranja Freak and the oddly listenable Mini Box Lunar, with their more mainstream, radio-friendly, carnival sound. That being said, there are a few gems on here that make this a worthwhile acquisition for any seeker of musical rarities. Among these is Jose Mauro's "Obnoxious", taken from his sole post-humus album of the same name. A jazzy, orchestral number that could have easily been used in a James Bond movie score, the song possesses the trademark saccharine melancholy that Mauro's work is known for. Tom Zé is another important figure of Brazil's Avant-Garde that is featured here. His pupil-dilating "Uai-Uai-Revolta Queto-Xambá", a mad scientist/shaman's brew of off-beat drums and synth trumpet, make Zé -an early prophet of tropicalia- sound like Brazil's answer to Scratch Perry (at least within the song's context.)

Other tracks have an influence that's less home-spun and more derivative of British psychedelia. Among these, 'Renata" by Liverpool, taken from their ultra-rare 1970 EP (and eight-track film score) Marcelo Zona Sul. Liverpool's song is a beautifully forlorn jam that subtly evokes the Moody Blues with its 'riding-off-into-the-sunset' ambience that is not atypical of gauchórock. Also, Marconi Notaro's "Anthropologica II" should awaken the inner ear of any anglophile acid-head with its intro of lo-fidelity outer space weirdness, leading into a folksy space ballad reminiscent of Hawkwind in a remote way.

The true rare gem on the record is the closer, "Sorriso Selvagem" by The Gentleman. An organically warm, mind expanding configuration of time and sound that resonates like a cross-pollination of Santana, Deep Purple, and the symphonic arranging of Mahavishnu Orchestra. The mystical groove of this all-out Jazz/Rock fusion has the heaviest rhythm on this collection and is perhaps the only song that dabbles in the sound of Brazil's prevalent Afro roots.

The special edition CD also comes with Jupiter Maça's 1996 Brazilian classic A Sétima Enfervescência as a bonus disc. This record is an infectious blend of artsy alt-rock, Revolver-era the Beatles with hints of Ziggy Stardust and some quasi-punk ethos thrown in for good measure. A striking record to listen to; quirky and whimsical, it captivates attention while evoking emotion with its smart, capricious songwriting.

Rough Guide to Psychedelic Brazil, courtesy of World Music Network is the quintessential introduction to the Brazilian psychedelia scene, past and present. Any fan of the genre that is on the relentless quest for the obscure will be sure to find this as the perfect starting point. Of course, understanding of the Portuguese language will probably make for the groovier experience, but then again, 'altered consciousness' is a universal language.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.