Mixing genres and influences can be a heady process, and the risks are numerable. To then attempt to simultaneously advance those art forms forward raises the stakes to an even higher degree. On one hand, blending genres can result in the best of qualities washing each other out, and leaving a sanitized version of What Once Was. On the other, even if the genre-mixing experiment works, the stab at innovation can transform art into dissertation, and turn creative interaction into just another classroom exercise.
That on Três Cabeças Loucuras, the São Paulo Underground were able to blend the Brazilian-psych-trip of Tropicalia of the 60s and the new-millenium-introversion of modern post-rock, and then focus it through a matrix of laptops, electronics, and effects with the end result of a thoroughly delightful and engaging album, it’s an accomplishment that is truly remarkable. It’s also terrifically fun music.
Your album personnel: Rob Mazurek (cornet, electronics), Mauricio Takara (cavaquinho, drums, percussion, electronics), Guilherme Granado (keyboards, loops, samplers, percussion), Richard Ribeiro (drums), Kiko Dinucci (guitar), and guests: Jason Adasiewicz (vibes), John Herndon (drums), and Matthew Lux (bass guitar). All of the main players also lend their voice to sections of album songs.
Originally founded by Chicagoan Rob Marzurek and Brazilian Mauricio Takara, the group has expanded its breadth of sound over the course of three albums, and what was once a sparse dissonant music has grown into a constantly flowing ever-present auditory sensation.
This is an album with infectious danceable grooves, wailing coronet lines, the crackle and pop of electronics, psychedelic reflections and echoes, strong builds up to soaring moments and sharp downturns of song deconstruction. Most admirably, even the moments that bring the noise have a pleasant charm to them, not dissimilar to the odd warmth of an ugly laugh.
The Brazilian rhythms imbue the music with an amicable chatter, and the post-rock embrace of simple yet mysterious melodies bring a feathery blush to quick-step tempos. The laptop effects and electronica flourishes are anything but superfluous stabs at “being modern”… they provide ornamentation to the architecture of the tunes, and spotlight the beauty inherent in the organic foundation of traditional instruments. The keyboards are the rich soil from which everything incubates, and though there is no overlooking the keyboard’s presence, there is a graceful understatement to the way it comports itself. This music is joyful and euphoric and, at times, it could induce a little dancing… but the musicians allow that to happen on its own, without becoming overly melodramatic, without getting in the listener’s face. For an album of music that is so drenched with sound and dynamics and textures, it’s an album that lets the listener come to the music.
And you couldn’t get an invitation any better than from the music on Três Cabeças Loucuras.
Released in 2011 on the Cuneiform Records label.
Available at Wayside Music.
NOTE: São Paulo Underground are currently on tour. They’re mostly hitting spots in the middle section of the U.S. Follow this link to the Cuneiform website for tour dates. I’ll be seeing them in Kentucky on both dates. Hope to see some of you there.