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Sao Paulo Underground: Cantos Invisíveis

Mark Sullivan By

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Cantos Invisíveis translates from Portuguese as "invisible corners/songs" or "disappearing corners/songs:" a fitting title for trans-national music that often seems to come from everywhere at once. The international trio's electro-acoustic sound blends music from North and South America, Africa and Asia, including stylistic references from traditional folk, modern jazz, rock and electronica. It's a dense, communal sound, full of joy and exploration. Band member Rob Mazurek says "The vocal quality of this particular music shouts and hollers for love and compassion, the joy and sorrows of life. It's a street parade for everybody."

Sao Paulo Underground is the creation of Chicago native Rob Mazurek (cornet), and Brazilians Mauricio Takara (drums) and Guilherme Granado (keyboards). They are joined on several tracks by Swiss-born São Paulo resident Thomas Rohrer (winds). Those are their primary instruments, but everyone is also credited with various synthesizers and electronics, percussion and voice. So it's often difficult to tell who is playing what—a fact that quickly comes to seem unimportant, awash in a glorious wall of sound. Mazurek's cornet is an exception, a strong, clear solo voice that cannot be mistaken for anything else. There are two distinctly Brazilian instruments in the mix: Takara contributes cavaquinho (a small folk guitar), and Rohrer plays rebeca (a folk fiddle).

The opening track "Estrada Para o Oeste" throws the listener into the maelstrom, layers of instruments and sound manipulation creating atmospheres that shift and change. The closer "Falling Down From the Sky Like Some Damned Ghost" is a twin—a lengthy soundscape to get lost in. Those two selections account for half of the running time, and are the only ones co-composed by Takara and Mazurek: they really show the collective approach.

The tracks in between those bookends are much more compact, each with its own atmosphere. Mazurek's "Violent Orchid Parade" is very short, a showcase for his cornet. "Cambodian Street Carnival" employs chant, and gamelan-like repetition, evoking an ecstatic street celebration. "Desisto II" was co-written by Mazurek and Granado, but it features spoken word and cornet rather than keyboards. Takara's "Olhaluai" is based on a dance rhythm, led by his electrified cavaquinho. "Of Golden Summer" is a gentle interlude for cornet and electronics before the big final soundscape, ending in a capella vocals.

This is the fifth São Paulo Underground album, and their third for Cuneiform. It sounds like a band that is completely comfortable in their own skin, and at home in the world.

Track Listing: Estrada Para o Oeste; Violent Orchid Parade; Cambodian Street Carnival; Lost Corners Boogie; Desisto II; Fire and Chime; Olhaluai; Of Golden Summer, Falling Down from the Sky Like Some Damned Ghost.

Personnel: Rob Mazurek: cornetta, Mellotron, sintetizzatore, Moog, OP-1, percussioni, voce; Mauricio Takara: batteria, cavaquinho, elettronica, Moog, Werkstatt, percussioni, voce; Guilherme Granado: tastiere, sintetizzatore, sampler, percussioni, voce; Thomas Rohrer: rabeca, flauti, sax soprano, elettronica, percussioni, voce.

Title: Cantos Invisiveis | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Cuneiform Records


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