Music

São Paulo-based Bixiga 70 Creates Their Grandest Music Yet with 'Quebra Cabeça'

Photo: José de Holanda / Courtesy of the artist

The Afro-Brazilian instrumentals of Bixiga 70 are bolder and brassier than ever on Quebra Cabeça.

Quebra Cabeça
Bixiga 70

Glitterbeat

19 October 2018

It might be audacious to suggest that Bixiga 70 represents one of the highest peaks of Afro-Brazilian music, but their new album Quebra Cabeça makes it hard to imagine anything grander in scope. Thus far, the São Paulo-based ten-piece has enjoyed well-deserved critical acclaim and, in Brazil, some national awards. In the past few years, the group has not only been hitting the international tour circuit hard, but has had the invaluable chance to play with groundbreaking musicians Pat Thomas, Orlando Julius, and João Donato. The group's growth is clear on this fourth album. While the basic elements that define Bixiga 70 - Afrobeat-inspired brass, Latin jazz melodies, and rhythms, measured electronic twists scattered throughout the music - are still there, the band is both tighter and more adventurous on Quebra Cabeça, and their forays further and further outside the box are ones marked by technical mastery.

Key to Bixiga 70's style is how the group both breaks ground and can sling a universally appealing tune. As the album's title track begins, the group does just that. Polyrhythms syncopate with a simple opening riff, and horns add a warm, winding melody to the track. Spacey keyboards lend out-of-this-world flourishes, balancing a sense of modernity with retro brass and hand percussion that draws on the centuries-old West African-Caribbean connection still so crucial to Brazilian musical aesthetics today.

And so it is across the board on Quebra Cabeça. Wavy notes and high guitar ostinato on "Ilha Vizinha" gives the track a tropical feel, while the rest of the ensemble maintains the weight necessary for Bixiga 70 to keep the music moving - and to keep the band's audience in the throes of dance. "Pedra de Raio" begins in a synthesized haze, the instruments loosely in sync with each other before meeting for a midtempo waltz. Here, the guitar emulates West African lutes with delicate, lace-like motifs, and the texture stays at a simmer until the piece blossoms into brilliant moments of jazz horns and electric bass fuzz.

The spiraling urgency of "4 Cantos" comes to a sharp end; Areia is a heated jam with synths for days. "Ladeira" has a cinematic quality to it, a dramatic chord leading quickly into a full-on action sequence with continuous shifts in rhythm and tempo that make it feel alive.

For all that, the best is yet to come. "Levante" brings in an ode to the Eastern Mediterranean, and though it's a slower piece, it may be one of the most interesting on the album. Shimmering and sinuous, it gilds Bixiga 70's Afro-Brazilian roots in a way that speaks to growing diversity in the band's repertoire."Primeiramente" follows, a piece full of protest that starts slow and quickly becomes a genuine headbanger, with heavy rock buoyed by funk grooves and leading into ominous Kill Bill-esque sirens. The stylistic mix is an unlikely one and makes for an intriguing shift in tone.

"Torre" lightens up the album next with quick, contemporary highlife sounds, and "Camelo" is a joyful dancefloor masterpiece. Finishing off the album is "Portal", a blissful finish to the album.

Quebra Cabeça means "puzzle" in Portuguese, but its literal translation is something like "break head" - appropriately close to "mindblowing", the perfect adjective for any Bixiga 70 release, especially this one, an appropriately diverse reflection of the streets of São Paulo and far, far beyond. If it is a puzzle, it's a satisfying one, and the different pieces - so many of them - come together brilliantly.

8
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.

Books

New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.

Music

Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.

Music

Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.

Music

New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.

Books

'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.

Music

Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.

Music

Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.

Music

M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

Music

Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.

Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.