Thursday, 22 October 2020

VA - Outro Tempo II (Electronic And Contemporary Music From Brazil 1984-1996) (2019)

Style: Experimental, Ambient, MPB, New Wave
Format: CD, Vinyl, FLAC
Label: Music From Memory

01.   May East - Maraka
02.   Dequinha e Zaba - Preposições
03.   Oharaska - A Fábula
04.   Fausto Fawcett - Shopping De Voodoos
05.   R.H. Jackson - O Gato De Schrödinger
06.   Edson Natale - Nina Maika
07.   Akira S - Tokei
08.   Low Key Hackers - Emotionless
09.   Chance - Samba Do Morro
10.   Jorge Degas & Marcelo Salazar - Ilha Grande
11.   Priscilla Ermel - Americua
12.   Voluntários Da Pátria - Marcha
13.   Angel's Breath - Velvet
14.   Fausto Fawcett - Império Dos Sentidos
15.   Chance - Intro-Amazônia
16.   Tetê Espíndola - Quero-Quero
17.   Nelson Angelo - Harmonía De Água
18.   Jorge Mello - A Natureza Reza
19.   Júlio Pimentel - Gersal
20.   Sebastião Neto - Carrousel

Compiled By – John Gómez 

In Brazilian political history, 1985 marks a turning point, the year a 21-year-old dictatorship gave way to the Nova República. In his liner notes for Outro Tempo II: Electronic And Contemporary Music from Brazil, 1984-1996, the London-based DJ John Gómez points out that young, middle-class musicians who came of age during this period could no longer identify with the social messages of the then-dominant MPB (AKA música popular brasileira), a style of music from the '60s that pulled from bossa nova, samba, baião and other traditional genres, often using lyrics for a political twist. The Brazilian cultural historian Marcos Napolitano writes that, by hiding in plain sight within the atmosphere of censorship and suppression in '70s Brazil, MPB helped "to build a meaning for the social experience of resistance to the military regime," using a "poetic-musical synthesis." Gilberto Gil, one of MPB's most recognizable artists, was imprisoned by the regime in 1969 without reason, presumably for the latent political content of his music. The liberalization of the regime and its eventual fall in 1985 provided a respite from these cultural battlegrounds, and the art of encoded resistance gave way to more explicit modes of counter-cultural expression. At first glance, it seems like the new social order sent artists in two directions: into the jungle, to explore the ideas and sounds of the country's indigenous cultures, and into the cities, where they had access to new electronic equipment and imported records from around the world.

Spanning 20 tracks across two LPs, Outro Tempo II is the second compilation of rare Brazilian music from Gómez and the Amsterdam label Music From Memory. Rather than picking up where the first instalment left off, it begins and ends a few years later. (The first Outro Tempo spans 1978 through 1992.) Overlapping in both era and influences, Outro Tempo II widens the scope of the type of projects that were sprouting from Brazil's fertile underground scene, while also acknowledging the interconnectedness of seemingly independent sounds.

Although Gómez writes that the music on Outro Tempo II signifies a "drifting away from the rainforest and into the pulsating heart of Brazil's immense and overpowering cities," he acknowledges that much of it still indicates "a pull towards the environment." The compilation does well not to pit these two absolutes against each other, instead revealing the mix of artists and movements drawing from urban centers and forest fringes who could freely exchange ideas and drift between genres.

The first track, May East's "Maraka," is a synth pop jam situating the album firmly in the middle of São Paulo's nascent electronic music scene. Originally from her debut album, Remota Batucada, it features keyboard synthesizers, drum machines and a catchy chorus. Akira S serves up more indelible '80s synth sounds on "Tokei," though there's a relationship between the two artists that goes beyond sonic similarity. Akira S played a central role in producing May East's second album, Tabaporã, which focused more explicitly on indigenous cultures and brought both artists' respective takes on '80s electrónica into the forest. Although no tracks from this album feature on Outro Tempo II, the presence of the two collaborators points to the multitude of unique identities forming in these circles.

Akira S appears again on Outro Tempo II playing the surdo, a large bass drum used in samba, on "Samba Do Morro" by the one-hit-wonder band Chance. Synthesizers add a darkly modern twist to accompanying maracas and shakers. It's a melancholic take on the traditional rhythms that first rose to national prominence in the '60s and '70s. This song isn't quite a bottom-of-the-crate find, as it's been included on at least two compilations put out by European labels in the past. In fact, Não Wave: Brazilian Post Punk 1982-1988 and The Sexual Lives Of Savages: Underground Post-Punk from São Paulo, Brazil, both released in 2005, overlap sonically with Outro Tempo II. They present a narrower definition of underground music from that period, but are good resources for those who want to hear more from the explicitly no wave-influenced scene.

Just as no wave and contemporary art went hand in hand in '70s and '80s New York, São Paulo's art scene fostered projects at the most experimental end of the spectrum. The electronic duo Dequinha E Zaba would perform in gallery spaces, uttering monotone incantations over synthesizers in a way that brought together poetry, music and shamanism. Gómez highlights the importance of context for some of these musicians' live performances. Fausto Fawcett, who features twice on Outro Tempo II, would perform from his album of "porno-futuristic opera" music to the accompaniment of video art.

Outro Tempo II ends on a joyful note with Tião Neto's "Carrousel." The off-kilter and stuttered sampling of children's voices brings to mind Psychic TV's 1990 cover of "Are You Experienced" by Jimi Hendrix, which featured vocals by Genesis P-Orridge's daughter. That said, "Carrousel" shirks heavy psychedelia for a bouncing kalimba melody. It's a weird and wonderful finale to a compilation that demonstrates the diversity of Brazilian music.

The end of Brazil's military regime didn't mean an end to art with messages of political resistance. It also didn't signify a radical break from the sounds of the past—the influence of bossa nova and samba instrumentals are evident in this compilation. Napolitano, the Brazilian cultural historian, described popular music as a field "for reflection on social history." If this is the case, then Outro Tempo II reflects a society seeking to hear sounds previously silenced, from urban noise to indigenous melodies, while establishing an irreverence toward the mores of their past.
Layla Fassa / Resident Advisor

Holger Hiller ‎– As Is (1991)

Style: Synth-pop, Experimental, Electro
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Mute

01.   Königinnen
02.   Sing Songs
03.   Bacillus Culture
04.   Sur La Tête
05.   Neighbours
06.   Abacus
07.   Gut Und Böse
08.   You
09.   Mosaik
10.   Egg
11.   Trojan Ponies
12.   Cuts Both Ways

Arranged By – Karl Bonnie
Drums – Stefan Van Campenhout
Programmed By – Mimi Izumi Kobayashi
Producer – Holger Hiller

Not quite so much a collection of songs as a series of sonic experiments, 1991's As Is is German avant-gardist Holger Hiller's fourth release, and his most uncompromising to date. Earlier albums like 1984's A Bunch of Foulness in the Pit had a certain low-tech charm, but the advent of digital sampling and sequencers gives As Is a hard-edged sheen. Singing in English some of the time for the first time since his days in the Hamburg art rock trio Palais Schaumberg, Hiller creates songs that are subtly disturbing even at their most musical, as in the unsettling wobble that underpins the otherwise dreamy "Bacillus Culture." Other tracks, like the weird cutup experiment "Sur La Tete" and the herky-jerky plod of "Neighbours," sound uncannily like a less playful version of the Residents. "Abacus," which sounds like early Art of Noise jamming with the Baader-Meinhof gang, is just plain disturbing. Not for the timid, but often fascinating for electronica fans.
Stewart Mason / AllMusic

Melanie De Biasio ‎– Lilies (2017)

Genre: Electronic, Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl, FLAC
Label: [PIAS] Le Label 

1.   Your Freedom Is The End Of Me
2.   Gold Junkies
3.   Lilies
4.   Let Me Love You
5.   Sitting In The Stairwell
6.   Brother
7.   Afro Blue
8.   All My Worlds
9.   And My Heart Goes On

Mastered By – John Davis
Mixed By – Catherine Marks
Recorded By, Producer – Pascal Paulus
Recorded By, Producer, Artwork, Photography – Melanie De Biasio

Lest any listener presume by the title that Melanie De Biasio's third proper album indicates a sunnier sound in contrast with that of the post-industrial suite Blackened Cities, Lilies was recorded in an environment that could be called ascetic. The singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer herself said: "I was in this room where there was no light, no night or day at all, no heat." It in fact builds from her 2016 release. The connection is crystal clear in lead single "Gold Junkies," a nervy number in which "Blackened cities rumble, strangers stroll, and lovers stumble" is intoned with that understated and uncannily fraught-yet-cool De Biasio style. While the album was evidently conceived in cramped quarters lacking climate control -- possibly a location with a very strict noise ordinance -- some heat was generated by the presence of the versatile core trio that has supported her before. If the vocals were removed, the songs, frequently coated in reverb, would still evoke sleep-deprived trance states induced by emotional affliction. "Your Freedom Is the End of Me" trudges hypnotically with Juba Zaki's lyrics very much in line with De Biasio's own writing: "Tears ain't blood, but oh, how they flow." "Let Me Love You" ("or stab me to death") picks up the pace but heaves with sexual frustration. On "And My Heart Goes On," one of only two songs on which De Biasio plays flute, a simple deep pulse and a slightly disturbing background noise seem to intensify De Biasio's anguish as she whispers about hot skin and frozen bones, like her body is about to burst from the contrasting conditions. A thrumming version of "Afro Blue" excepted, Lilies is a set of originals -- one that's enticing and breathtaking in an unconventional, as in almost stifling, sense.
Andy Kallman / AllMusic

Elvin Jones/Jimmy Garrison Sextet Featuring McCoy Tyner ‎– Illumination! (1963)

Style: Post Bop, Modal
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Sparton Impulse! Records

A1.   Nuttin' Out Jones
A2.   Oriental Flower
A3.   Half And Half
B1.   Aborigine Dance In Scotland
B2.   Gettin' On Way
B3.   Just Us Blues

Piano – McCoy Tyner
Bass – Jimmy Garrison
Clarinet, Flute – Prince Lasha
Drums – Elvin Jones
Baritone Saxophone – Charles Davis
Alto Saxophone, English Horn – Sonny Simmons
Producer – Bob Thiele

I’ve recently spent a bit of time listening again to the 1963 album Illumination!, by the Elvin Jones/Jimmy Garrison Sextet. I find it an interesting study of contrasts and a very unusual album. It features one of the greatest—if not the greatest—rhythm sections in the history of jazz: McCoy Tyner, piano; Jimmy Garrison, bass; and Elvin Jones, drums. This famous trio backed John Coltrane on his best-known Impulse! Records albums. I’ve wondered why the trio moved away from Coltrane duties to record Illumination!, and wish I could ask the producer, the late Bob Thiele, how this album came about.

Recorded at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio on August 8, 1963, Illumination! also features lesser-known horn players who you’d think would never work in such illustrious company, but indeed they do. Sonny Simmons plays alto sax and English horn, Prince Lasha (“La-Shay”) plays clarinet and flute, and Charles Davis is on baritone saxophone.

While Davis plays in a straight-ahead style, Lasha (pictured above in a 1982 photo taken in Amsterdam) and Simmons were part of the jazz avant-garde in the 1960’s, recording for ESP-Disk and other adventurous labels. You hear the influence of Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy in Simmons’s and Lasha’s improvisations, and in general they display a more raw and free style than other prevailing horn players of the day. They stretch out the band toward the corners like a centrifugal force, but the powerhouse rhythm section always reigns it all back in. As a result, solos that might have driven listeners to the exits instead combine into a wonderful, joyous whole.

Miles Davis once said he’d rather hire new musicians who weren’t great rather than keep musicians he’d worked with for a long time or work with well-known jazz artists. Coltrane himself used little-known personnel for his titanic work Ascension.  Simmons’s and Lasha’s iconoclastic styles differ greatly from a Joe Henderson or a Wayne Shorter. Like square pegs in round holes, Simmons (pictured below in a 1997 photo) and Lasha counter-balance the famous trio. This difference between their solos and the trio is what creates the frisson, the musical magic that makes this album unique.

The six songs on Illumination! total only 31­­ minutes of music. I am always surprised by how little music comes on the many albums I’ve treasured since high school days. The opening track “Nuttin’ Out Jones” features Sonny Simmons stretching out on English horn, an instrument hardly ever heard in jazz. The bluesy “Oriental Flower” shows off Elvin Jones’s beautiful drum brushwork. Charles Davis solos on two numbers, and I have always loved his powerful solo on “Half and Half.” The marching song “Aborigines Dance in Scotland” has a highland feel, but most of the song is taken up by an extended solo by Elvin Jones. Jimmy Garrison’s “Getting’ on Way” features Simmons on alto and Lasha on flute. “Just Us Blues” is a 12-bar blues featuring Davis again.

McCoy Tyner and Sonny Simmons remain the last two living members of the sextet. Jimmy Garrison died young in 1976, Elvin Jones passed in 2004, Prince Lasha in 2008, and Charles Davis in 2016. I once interviewed Jones on Morning Becomes Eclectic and had a great time hearing about his life with Coltrane and beyond. I will always remember that when I shook Jones’s hand to say goodbye, I couldn’t get my hand around his big hand. It felt like trying to shake hands with a baseball glove!

Illumination! has been reissued on CD, but I’m of course partial to the vinyl. Well-recorded music, especially drums, always sounds better in analog. Besides, you want to hear Elvin Jones in the best way possible. I have and love the 180g deluxe vinyl reissue.
Tom Schnabel / KCRW