Boogarins

From the same Goiânia neo-psychedelic indie scene that produced Carne Doce, Boogarins developed from the childhood friendship of Dinho Almeida (voice and guitar) and Benke Ferraz (guitar), the duo recorded an EP, As Plantas Que Curam, which garnered them a record deal. Expanding to a quartet with Raphael Vaz on bass and Hans Castro on drums, the band released a debut album of the same name as the EP. Castro left the band for parenthood to be replaced by former Macaco Bong drummer Ynaiã Benthroldo. In the process they’ve become one of the more popular Brazilian rock acts this decade. At their best the burst through their nostalgic sound with saudade melodies, tasty guitar and canny, but unfussy, texturing. Of course, they aren’t always at their best. You can hear and purchase their music here.

As Plantas Que Curam (2013) – Mixing American/British late ’60s sonics with touches of Os Mutantes’ Brazilian psychedelia, this competent debut mainly establishes that the band has a sound—which is pretty close to Tame Impala, actually—and can write solid, if unremarkable, songs. Castro can’t push as effectively as Benthroldo will, so the songs mostly sit there. Their influences can sound more like plagiarism than inspiration—that’s the Kinks’ “Lazy Old Sun” melody on “Hoje Aprendi de Verdade”. The album’s not bad per se, but really it just makes me want to pull out, well, Something Else. Grade: C

Boogarins, Manual, ou Guia Livre de Dissolução dos Sonhos (2015) – On their second album, the band moves beyond echoing the past to putting their own stamp on it. The album leads with a brief guitar instrumental and then launches into four near perfect neo-psychedelic nuggets. The playing is straightforward, with Almeida and Ferraz’s guitars tracing out simple lines or riffs, usually repeating or slightly varying them, while new drummer Ynaiã Benthroldo and bassist Vaz keep the songs from drifting away. The effect is expansive, recapturing that late ’60s soaring sense of mind-altering utopia before the overdoses, addictions and bad trips sent everything crashing back to reality in the early ’70s. Of course, these four were born well after that beautiful lie, so translate the lyrics to read a bleaker worldview and hear the music take on a more melancholic ennui without losing it’s power. Either way, heady stuff. But after the fifth track, mood begins to replace songs, tunes drift and the energy enervates. They bounce back on the final two tracks, although they still miss the highs of those opening numbers. Grade: B

Desvio Onírico (2017) – Live EP where they stretch out and slow down. Maybe it’s impressive on drugs, but if so it makes me think I’m not missing much with my boring life. The improvised track is a disaster. Grade: D

Lá Vem a Morte (2017) – On their third proper album Boogarins finally lives up to their influences. Channeling the cosmic strum of the Moody Blues (without the tuneless warble or spoken word nonsense) and the textural moves of Spirit but with better songs, the band puts out an album with more tasty sounds than almost any current Amerindie act. The secret is sonics you can dive into tied to melodies that keep you from getting lost or bored in soundscapes. Almeida’s fetching, androgynous singing floats above his and Ferraz’s guitars which soar, soothe and chime while the rhythm section drifts or drives as the situation requires. Translated, the album title is Here Comes Death, and in case you missed the point, “Onda Negra” (Black Wave) and “Elogio à Instituoção do Cinismo” (Praise for the Institution of Cynicism), let you know you’re in for a downer. But thanks to the language barrier, you can just enjoy some pretty, melancholy music without focusing on oblivion. The deluxe edition adds three useless tracks, including a cover of the Kinks’ “No Return” that makes me wonder if they understand what was great about the Kinks. Grade: B+

Casa das Janelas Verdes OST (2017) – Two 30-minute sides made up of half-formed songs and sonic snippets that are meant to be watched with some video, but nothing here induced me to click the link. Perhaps they think it’s their Can move, to which I’ll just reply, “Really, you Can’t.” To their credit, it’s a “name your price” download. Grade: D+

Sombrou Dúvida (2019) – You know they’re pop because they sequence most of their albums with the best stuff up front. As on Manual, but more dramatically and with worse overall results, this starts strong and falls off. The first four tracks continue the welcome sonic depth of Lá Vem a Morte with even stronger, more direct songwriting that edges anthemic without crossing to corny. The songs are full of delicious details—strangulated guitars, braking and breaking sound effects, cannily repurposed melodies. But after peaking with “Dislexia ou Transe”, they aim for moody on “A Tradição” and end up muddy. The My Bloody Valentine hints on “Nós” recover some, but they follow that with four tracks of filler where the aural inventiveness recedes and the album sags. One or more tracks worthy of the first four leavened in that final run and the album might have risen to the top of their catalog. As is, it sounds like they ran out of ideas and inspiration. Grade: B-

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2019, Part One

Editor’s Note: When I do current release roundups, I no longer plan to segregate Latin and Brazilian albums. Let’s just admit that Brazil Beat is now Brazil (and Latin) Beat. It just doesn’t work as a title.

BaianaSystem, O Futuro Não Demora – Sometimes you want an album or band to be something it’s not. BaianaSystem could be a Brazilian Clash: a politically driven band exploring global grooves. With the world, including Brazil, awash in populist messiah wannabes the time for such a band is ripe. Thatcher had the Clash. Bolsonaro could have BaianaSystem. But however much I want the parallel, it doesn’t quite work. Where the Clash were on fire, BaianaSystem tends slick. Where the Clash’s politics were steeped in detail, righteous rage and a pained humanism deeply aware of the tragic side of politics, BaianaSystem sticks at the level of hopeful generalities pining for a utopia that will never be. So releasing the fantasies, I’ve accepted that I should just enjoy BaianaSystem for what it is: a sharp band with the chops to achieve its Brazil-Jamaica-Africa fusion and admirable, if largely nonspecific, political inclinations. (Nonspecific at least to this non-Brazilian, of course. Who knows what references go over my head.) In other words, they’re more Maurice White than Strummer-Jones. And that’s fine. White put together solid, if slick, funk with aspirational, if vague, politics for a string of good albums and great songs with Earth, Wind and Fire. Having surrendered my demands, I can now enjoy funk that hits hard, often fast—eight of these 13 tracks are under three minutes—and then moves on to the next party: the rolling march punctuated with metal riffs on “CertoPeloCertoh”, the samba de coco as baile funk of “Redoma”, the fluid African-tinged guitar of Roberto Barreto on “Bola de Cristol”, the berimbau trance of “Melô do Centro da Terra”. It’s fun as resistance, which might not sound deep, but when you’re trying to survive a president romanticizing a military dictatorship while attacking sexual and racial minorities, fun can be more than a narcotic to avoid politics. It can get you through the day. Which I guess means this album turns out to be closer to the Clash than I thought. Maybe Clash meets Earth, Wind and Fire? That sounds like a party. Listen here. Grade: A-

Black Alien, Abaixo de Zero: Hello Hell – Two albums into a comeback that resurrected a career and a life, Black Alien, a.k.a. Gustavo de Almeida Ribeiro a.k.a. Gus, continues musing over the substance abuse that nearly destroyed his life. He writes a letter to a fellow sufferer, Amy Winehouse, who didn’t fare as well. He celebrates his sobriety birthday. He gets kicks from sex and music—Hey! A Dave Brubeck joke!—that keep him on the straightish and narrowish. Not surprisingly the recovery is settling into normal after the natural high of No Princípio Era o Verbo, where he sounded amazed to be alive much less making another album. The biggest change is he replaces Alexandre Basa’s dense party funk with ConeCrewDiretoria producer Papatinho’s jazzy minimalism. If Papatinho’s music is not as immediately pleasurable as Basa’s, he still has plenty of tricks up his sleeve, most notably delicious chipmunk vocal hooks deployed to best effect on “Vai Baby”. But the center of attention remains Black Alien and his solid, ready to please flow. Compared to trap or current American hip hop, he can sound kind of square, but if you think ’90s rap had virtues that are missed, then he’ll sound just fine. Listen here. Grade: B

Clima, La Commedia É Finita – Taking its name from the final line in Pagliacci, Clima’s latest album fittingly apes the strained arty acrobatics of opera. More focused than on Monumento ao Soldado Desconhecido, Clima still emphasizes delicate and abstruse, and initially I disliked it enough that I figured I’d overrated its just-barely-good-enough predecessor. But after several tries, I realized that, in his own way, Clima is deconstructing samba the way Captain Beefheart or Pere Ubu do rock music. The differences between rock and samba is crucial, however. Where rock has that gutbucket punch, samba floats and flits, and without that anchor, Clima’s avant drifts away into the pleroma. This is smart stuff, but a body wants to feel, and Romulo Fróes and Passo Torto have done similar work without leaving me feeling I was trapped in a mannered museum. Tom Zé could give him some lessons on how to be fun and weird with Brazilian music. Listen here. Grade: B-

A Espetacular Charanga do França, Ao Vivo No Conceição – Thiago França’s flash mob street party brass band recorded—where else?—on the streets. Selections are fine, the atmosphere fun, but the low-fi recording quality mocks you like a friend letting you listen to the concert through the phone. It feels kind of mean. Download from the artist here. Grade: C.

Fumaça Preta, Pepas – Created when Venezuelan-Portuguese drummer Alex Figueira invited some friends to try out his new studio in Amsterdam, Fumaça Preta followed a long-tradition of Latin-touched garage rock, which was honorably homaged but struggled to push past bash and howl. On this third effort, the band breaks through to something else. The differences between this effort and the earlier albums are slight, but decisive. The funk is stankier. The freakouts more frenetic. The garage greasier. The soupçon of Tony Iommi in Stuart Carter’s guitar riffs. The Bitches Brew clashy murk of Carter’s underwater Moog. It’s a heady mix. Where the first two albums were sung mainly in Portuguese, this one is in Spanish. I haven’t been able to track down lyrics, but the songs apparently reflect Figueira’s struggles as an ex-pat from a collapsing country whose own career choices lead to the economic marginalization faced by so many artists in our techno-utopia. But that’s theoretical until I can get the lyrics. For now just enjoy a neo-psychedelic dinginess that finds that sonic sweet spot exploited by so many early ’70s metal bands you know and, at least I, love. Listen and buy here. Grade: B+

Various Artists, Levanta Poeira: Afro-Brazilian Music & Rhythms 1976-2016 (2018) – German label Jazz and Milk hires São Paulo DJ Tahira to compile seemingly random, and slim, given the four decade reach, selection of Afro-Brazilian songs. The vinyl version, which is apparently sold out, features a lovely, extend remix of Gilberto Gil’s “Toda Menina Baiana”. Gil’s the only name artists included, but the download version is superior despite his absence because it includes two terrific, non-vinyl tracks: Afroelectro’s “Sika Blawa” and Forró Red Light’s “Baião Violossentético”. Given that each version comes in under thirty minutes, the reductions seem stingy, but what is there makes up for the deficit. Rhythms, melodies and textures unfold funkily and gorgeously in a package that might not provide any larger insights into Afro-Brazilian musics or trends, but sounds great, which, really, is the point. A reminder that the anonymous and the obscure deserve their shot at your ear-time as well. Listen and buy here. Grade: A-

Yapunto, Yapunto – The brainchild of Colombian expat French resident Alejandra Charry, Yapunto brings together ten French, conservatory-trained musicians to back Charry’s vocals across nine traditional songs in 40 minutes. Remarkably loose, the band manages to avoid sounding forced or sterile despite the culture gap and the formal training. Charry’s voice is the centerpiece, but the band is more than just background. Guitarist Gabriel Bouillon’s fluid lines slither around Charry’s voice decorating the music with funky, itchy detail, while the horn section rides the percussion and pulls its punch just enough to not overwhelm the other musicians. I’ll leave it to others to debate authenticity—always a fantasy anyway—and just note that it’s uncynical and fun. Grade: B+

Pardon My Mess

Over the summer, I plan on doing some reorganizing here to make the site more search and reader friendly. I’ve added a couple of new pages on the menu to your left: an index of artist pages and a page of top ten lists for years. I plan to combine some artist reviews that are scattered over several pages onto a single artist pages, which means sometimes you’ll see old reviews reposted in a new format. (I’ve already combined my multi-part Jorge Ben Jor overview, for instance.) I’ve got a few other changes I’m thinking about as well, so when you visit look around a bit: you might notice a new feature.

Carne Doce Mea Culpa

Streaming has opened up possibilities for listening that gladdens the ears of many music gluttons. (Let’s leave aside its dubious economic impact on artists for now.) I could never have done this blog or listened to as much Brazilian and Latin music as I do without streaming transporting worlds into my speakers. But gains often have losses, sometimes hidden ones. In my experience, the endlessness of music that it makes possible even more than other capitalized forms did, streaming results in a certain cheapness. Without the physical product, I find myself less attached and attuned to the music. It doesn’t beckon me from a shelf for a surprise listen. Worse, poorer sound quality due to digitized files that don’t breath and office or headphone/earbud speakers that don’t fill the sonic frame as fully can sap the listening experience.

I’m no audiophile, but I can hear the difference much of time I end up getting a CD of an album I’ve streamed. I almost always notice details and depth I’d missed. Sometimes that makes me wish I’d graded an album a notch higher. Every now and then it makes me realize I whiffed completely. One such whiff is Carne Doce’s Tônus. Despite the limitations of streaming, I try to hear albums in different contexts, and think I mostly get it right, at least right by my standards. But on the first listen here, I realized I’d underrated this album.

Immediately low register sounds that don’t demand attention on middling quality streams/speakers leap out at you. Bassist Aderson Maia and drummer Ricardo Machado ground the delicate guitar interplay of Macloys Aquino and João Victor Santana with a quietly propulsive funk that adds body to the gentle eroticism of Salma Jô’s cooing vocals. The extra movement pushes an album that seemed too languid toward smoldering sensuality with an ebb and flow that suits Jô’s sex-and-love content perfectly.

Far from merely being “a good entry in a solid catalog that keeps growing”, Tônus rivals Princesa for the band’s best album. What’s more, comparing Tônus with its predecessors has me thinking I even underrated Carne Doce, albeit just slightly. In my grading there’s a decent gap between a B and a B+. A B is good album I admire but will likely rarely, if ever, return to unless I’m invested in the artist. A B+ pushes right up against excellent. So that B+ I gave Carne Doce isn’t far from the A- I think it deserves now. But the distance from B to A- for Tônus represents a more genuine misgrade by me. Hence this mea culpa review.

But the real point of all this is to note that if you take the Clube da Encruza’s rockier alt-samba efforts out of the equation—so really anything Kiko Dinucci is associated with—I’m pretty sure Carne Doce is the best rock band going in Brazil, which means it’s better than a lot of English-singing ones who get more press than they deserve. I realize Jô’s voice will be a non-starter for some—as I noted in the original Carne Doce roundup, I had to adapt my ears to it myself—but on Tônus, she’s more restrained. So start there, work backward and hear how even less flashy their non-flashy virtuosity has become as they’ve figured out how to deploy their chops without getting in the way of the songs.

Re-grades:

Dos Namorados EP (2013), Grade: C

Carne Doce (2014), Grade: A-

Princesa (2016), Grade: A-

Carne Doce No Complexo Estúdio EP (2017), Grade: B+

Tônus (2018), Grade A-

Höröyá

In the early ’00s, André Piruka traveled to Africa where his ears encountered unheard-to-him worlds. Upon returning to Brazil, he began to immerse in the connections between his country’s musics and those he had heard on his African trip. The end result of this exploration is Höröyá, a São Paulo-based band bringing together Brazilian and West African musicians. Playing traditional instruments from both regions—from balafon to berimbau and beyond—the band works up an intense Afrobeat groove leavened with other West African and Brazilian flavors.

Afrobeat bands are surprisingly common in Latin America, but most tend miss the magic that made Fela Kuti and the like compelling. Too many Latin/Brazilian Afrobeat worshippers turn the style into a grooves-for-solos graveyard. The players in Höröyá mostly avoid the sin of showboating, which is more impressive considering the music is primarily instrumental. Instead the focus is on the collective. You do have solos, but they tend to ride the polyrhythmic wave rather than draw your attention from it. A good part of the reason for that is the shifting lineup that makes up the band always revolves around a core of three to six percussionists plus a bass player. Even the guitarist rarely moves beyond a rhythm role. So when one of the horn players breaks out, the band doesn’t just fall back for quiet support. The groove rages on.

And rage it does. For the most part, this is aggressive music. That’s both it’s strength and weakness. Whatever Höröyá’s limitations—it’s a good band, but it’s no Africa ’70, not least because it has no Tony Allen (but who does?)—the group builds up a formidable rumble that’s hard to resist if you allow yourself to immerse. But after awhile, rush turns jackhammer in its relentless push forward. It tires you out.

That’s what keeps the first album from fully connecting. After a spoken-word-over-gentle-but-not-boring-music opener, the percussionists and horn section kick in hard on “Tama Tama” and maintain the tempo with little respite for the next 40 minutes before slowing down on a mirror to the lead song. Very little actually falters—most individual tracks are fine—but it wearies you. Before it does, however, those rolling, roiling beats are mental massage. The grooves are at their most powerful when when the propulsion overwhelms and the gestalt floods over you.

Two years later, the band released Pan Bras’Afree’Ke Vol. 1. Although only 32 minutes it’s a much weaker showcase of the group’s talents. The album stumbles on a the lead track, “Agô”, another spoken-word-over-music intro that annoys. Soloists tend to hog the spotlight a bit more, especially that guitar on “Guerrier”. The band rights itself some on the title track, but not enough to overcome the weak start.

With the third album, however, Höröyá strikes the right balance. The driving rhythms are supplemented with gorgeous slower bits that cut the frenetic funk with enough variation to avoid that jackhammer problem. The quickly released live album capitalizes on that success without surpassing it.

Whether Pan Bras’Afree’Ke Vol. 2 is a genuine breakthrough portending future attention-worthy albums or is a one-shot, it achieves a peak few of the many Latin/Brazilian Afrobeat imitators have matched. Their albums can be heard on most major streaming services.

Höröyá (2016), Grade: B

Pan Bras’Afree’Ke Vol. 1 (2017), Grade: C+

Pan Bras’Afree’Ke Vol. 2 (2019), Grade B+

Höröyá No Estúdio Showlivre (2019), Grade: B

Criolina

Imagine a world where Kid Creole & the Coconuts’ pan-American groove had exploded into worldwide popularity. There would be all kinds of bands imitating those polyglot polyrhythms. To lesser effect, for sure, but with plenty of fun and pleasure built in nonetheless. Criolina lives in that world. Even if Alê Muniz and Luciana Simões never heard the Kid, their fusion of Latin, Caribbean, Brazilian, African and American musics echoes the strategy used so smartly by August Darnell.

Historically, the anchor is the tropicália movement led by Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, which developed a similar sonic omnivorousness that fused Brazilian samba and bossa nova with the fertile global music scene in the late 1960s. Being so far downstream of those developments, Muniz and Simões aren’t trailblazers, but comfortable residents in the possibilities created by others. That’s not a backhanded compliment, but merely a reflection of historical trends. There’s still pleasure to be found in these possibilities even if Criolina doesn’t do anything to change them up.

Their sonic mix isn’t surprising given that Muniz and Simões are from the state of Maranhão on Brazil’s northern coast. Like other northern and northeastern states, the regional music opens up to Latin and Caribbean sounds. Muniz began his recording career in 1996, with the solo album Iê Mama. The album starts with an engaging, funky blend of African, South American and Caribbean influences, but within a few tracks settles into an affable reggae groove that sounds like a lot of reggae grooves to these challenged ears: a bit monotonous. Then he disappears, apparently staying active on the local scene, but not recording. Simões studied music in São Paulo and was engaged in Brazil’s reggae scene in the band Mystical Roots. But in the 2009 they teamed as Criolina and released their first album in 2010.

That album brings together all these influences as well as Simões’ love of Radio Age singers. The resulting sound recalls, without being as sharp as, not only Kid Creole but Colombia’s Monsieur Periné. Criolina is more rooted in the heavier, rock-ish rhythms of a post-’60s world, which means their music lacks a fleetness present in those other two. It’s still solid stuff. Their reggae-Latin-tropicália-Caribbean-classic pop mashup at worst passes pleasantly by and sometimes generates real frisson. Although their lifts occasionally border on plagiarism—I recognize nearly straight steals from Tribalistas, Gilberto Gil and Os Novos Baianos—mostly they put their own little stamp on music others may have done better, but they do well enough.

And that pretty much holds true for all their albums. Some are a little better, some a little worse. Criolina’s the kind of band that can probably churn out solid albums for years and, in the rights hands, compile their best into something that approaches excellence.

Alê Muniz, Iê Mamá (1996). Listen here. Grade: B-

Criolina, Criolina (2009), Grade: B

Criolina, Cine Tropical (2010). Listen here. Grade: B-

Criolina, A Granel, a compilation of the first two albums (2014). Listen here. Grade: B

Criolina, Latinoamericano EP (2015). Listen here. Grade: B-

Criolina, Criolina no Estúdio Showlivre (2016). Listen here. Grade: B

Criolina, Radiola em Transe (2017). Listen here. Grade: B

Criolina, Bota Pra Moer EP (2019). Listen here. Grade B

Rough Guides

In addition to its handy book guides for the reasonably adventurous traveler, Rough Guide has lent its name to U.K.-based World Music Network for the estimable music series of the same name. For 25 years, the label has provided handy starter kits for people interested in music from across the globe. Below are reviews of eight of the 14 Brazil-related volumes. (Basically ones friends could lend me or I could stream. And thanks to those friends who lent them.) Hope to catch up with the other five at some point. (They are: The Rough Guide to the Music of Brazil; The Rough Guide to the Music of Brazil, 2nd Edition; The Rough Guide to Samba, Second Edition; The Rough Guide to Brazilian Street Party; The Rough Guide to Brazilian Lounge; and The Rough Guide to Psychedelic Brazil.)

The Rough Guide to Brazil: Bahia (2004) – Bahia is the heart of Afro-Brazilian culture, so it’s not surprising that its music is beatier compared its southern, whiter Brazilian states. Technically part of the northeast, you can hear Bahia as a connector between Brazil’s more populous (and culturally and politically influential) southern states and the northeastern musics associated with Pernambuco, etc. Rhythm is very much at the heart of these 16 tracks. Rolling, punchy beats, quick riffed cavaquinho, ebullient vocals. This is party music. But it’s also pretty slick. Pop for the mass market not music for the house party. And it also tends to ignore Bahia outside the narrow norms the compiler set, which is basically ’90s period stuff (Carlinhos Brown makes multiple appearances and axé star Daniela Mercury has two tracks). Except for an oddball Tom Zé song (and really, professionally he’s more associated with São Paulo than his native Bahia), there’s a sameness to these songs. Fortunately, it’s a pretty good sameness, and only a couple actually miss. Grade: B

The Rough Guide to Brazil: The Music of Rio de Janeiro (2005) – Rio is the heart of so much Brazilian music, especially for the stuff that makes a splash in the West. But Rio’s also tended to be more upscale and ‘classier’ than the stuff that comes out of São Paulo, Pernambuco or the wilder regions of Brazilian musical culture. So, naturally, this comp fits the tone of the city that has defined Brazilian music for so many ears. It’s a mess of classic and modern sounds, which makes sense if you’re trying to capture the historical impact of a city, but makes for a jarring listening experience. Like too many of the Rough Guide comps, at least the ones from Brazil where I know the music best, either licensing or laziness has kept more notable artists out, although you can hear covers of touchstones like “Construção”, “Canto de Ossanha” and “Chega de Saudade”. The end result is that the listener doesn’t really know much more about Rio’s contribution to Brazil’s music than when she began. Grade: C

The Rough Guide to Brazilian Café (2011) – Conjuring up coffee shop easy listening, the title is enough to scare you away. And from the opening song, you feel right to worry: focusing on the classed up samba, bossa and MPB tricks that have been marketed to Western consumers craving ‘sophistication’ in their pop music since Getz and Gilberto, this compilation risks turning off anyone who likes their music to hit the ear drums not waft gently by. It leads off with a solid Céu track from her sophomore album, but then is followed by a middling Vitor Ramil song, Seu Jorge’s cover of Jorge Ben’s “Errare Humanum Est” that sucks the beauty out of the song and a Wilson Simoninha dreadful lounge funk. Then Luisa Maita rights the ship a bit. The Marcel Powell Trio gets away with a show of chops, and, incrementally, the album steadies. I suppose the Caymmi clan had to make an appearance, but surely they could have done better than Danilo’s “Toada À Toa”. Elsewhere, however, mood and craft more or less carry the day, if barely. (Some versions include a second disc of Ramil’s 2007 collaboration with Marcos Suzano, Satolep Sambatown, that both fits the theme and betters the main disc.) Grade: B-

The Rough Guide to Brazilian Electronica (2003) – Maybe I’m too narrow-minded, but electronica denotes a certain kind of sound for me. Dance music for the modern club with vocals used as hooks or atmosphere rather than being the centerpiece. Definitely unpop since it’s focused on keeping the body moving all night long rather than just the rush of pop moment. This collection leads it off right with a track from Serbian expat/star Brazilian producer Suba, but by the third track it’s recycling Brazilian pop songs with electronica touches, and craters from there: decent Instituto number, more lame pop, rehash of Anglo dance music trends…like that. And then there’s that bad emo-metal song by Rebecca Matta that has nothing to do with electronica other than being electric music. About a third of this is worth rescuing: the Suba, Ramiro Musotto’s berimbau tinged “Caminho”. Macumbalada’s “Samba do Morro”, Cila do Coco’s “Jutanda Coco (Instituto Mix)”, O Discurso’s “O Sertão” and Tejo & Instituto’s “OHHH!”. The rest isn’t even filler. Grade: C-

The Rough Guide to Brazilian Hip-Hop (2004) – As is so often the case, with words upfront and meanings obscured by language difference, this collection of Brazilian hip hop relies solely upon the music to get across. Although Brazilian rap had been going for more than a decade at this point, it had also yet to develop as fully as it would in the 15 years after this release. You get the sense compilers were more than a bit desperate by including relevant songs from decidedly non-relevant artists like Elza Soares or André Abujamra while skipping over notables such as Bnegão, Black Alien and Planet Hemp. But despite those handicaps this mixture of relaxed R&B grooves and hard-edged funk, both of which have a very late ’80s feel, gets across. The beats are tricked out with subtle polyrhythms that hint at traditional Brazilian and Afro-Brazilian musics. Most of the rappers have solid flow, and teams often work in unison adding a nice communal spirit to the proceedings. And since the comp cherry picks, you don’t have to worry about the musically fallow moments that make so many Brazilian hip hop artists’ albums hard to connect, at least with my non-Portuguese-understanding ears. Grade: B+

The Rough Guide to Brazilian Jazz (2017) – Another comp that has genre issues. Very little of this would qualify as actual jazz. Afrobeat? Avant Afro-Brazilian neo-traditionalism? Hip Hop? Brazilian dance pop? Yes, yes, yes and yes. Five, maybe six of these count as jazz to my ears. But as a listening experience, who cares? Bopping through mostly instrumental styles with the occasional vocal to add some variety, tracks play off each other as moods, rhythms and colors shift in a whirl whose sum total is more psychedelic that the official comp that follows. Packed with ideal-for-compilation artists such as Bixiga 70 and Iconili as well as worth-more-of-your-time ones such as Thiago França, Juçara Marçal and Tulipa Ruiz (misspelled Ruis here), it’s a nice introduction to Brazilian music’s penchant for consuming foreign sounds and regurgitating them with a national spin. Oh, and the handful of weak tracks? They all come from those five, maybe six jazz ones. Grade; B+

The Rough Guide to Psychedelic Samba (2015) – Really, if they were being honest, this would just be a tropicália comp, but they probably knew they’d never top Soul Jazz’s ace disc. I do hear some samba, not so much psychedelia. Mainly I hear modern Brazilian rock music: manguebit, dirty samba, post-Assumpção Paulinista stuff. Surprisingly, given the title, not a single representative of Brazil’s neo-psychedelic scene (Boogarins, Bike, Carne Doce) unless you count Graveola. Also, given the wealth of stuff out there, I’m a bit surprised how obscure many of these selections are. Sure, Metá Metá, Russo Passapusso and Gui Amabis, but Iuri Andrade? Sexy Fi? Baco? So figure the psychedelic in the title is more a marketing concept to tie to matching volumes (Cumbia, Cambodia, Bollywood, etc.), and wonder how accurate those titles advertise the content as well. And figure the track selection has more to do with licensing than trying to capture a historical moment. None of which is to say that the music herein is bad. Some is pretty solid, a few are pretty great. Definitely better and more title appropriate tracks could be found for Graveola or Amabis. A wilder one for Metá Metá. But that’s someone with more specialized knowledge nitpicking. For your average listener, it’s a decent introduction to post-millennium Brazilian rock music that might inspire them to seek out more, say through a blog like this one. Grade: B-

The Rough Guide to Samba (2001) – The great virtue of this collection is the compiler takes the title serious. It’s not samba-touched MPB. Or samba-seasoned Brazilian rock. It’s straight samba with plenty of cavaquinho, proper percussion and all the trimmings. While I don’t know classic samba as well as post-bossa Brazilian musics, I know enough to notice that some of the classic masters are missing (Cartola’s here, though) in favor of more recent recordings. But that doesn’t really matter. Whether older, classic tracks or new up-and-comers the artists here let you to know what unadulterated samba sounds like. Except for the awful chamber samba of Zizi Possi’s “O Que É O Que É” this compilation works perfectly. Every track has at least a little juice and many leap out of the speakers. A delightful introduction. Note: this is the first edition. A second version was released in 2013. Grade: A-