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Sao Paulo Underground: Tres Cabecas Loucuras

Troy Collins By
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Sao Paulo Underground: Tres Cabecas Loucuras Três Cabeças Loucuras (Portuguese for "three crazy heads") is the third release from São Paulo Underground to explore the furthest fringes of Brazil's revolutionary Tropicalia movement. Updating the renowned genre's patented psychedelia with free improvisation, laptop-driven electronica and musique concrete, the album unveils a spectrum of kaleidoscopic sound that pushes the bounds of each style to its limits, creating a new, unclassifiable amalgam in the process.

The group was originally co-founded by Chicago-based cornetist Rob Mazurek (Chicago Underground Duo, Exploding Star Orchestra) and Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Mauricio Takara, whom Mazurek met while living in Brazil. They recorded their debut, Sauna: Um, Dois, Tres (Aesthetics, 2006), as a duo, eventually recruiting keyboardist Guilherme Granado and occasional drummer Richard Ribeiro for their sophomore release, The Principle of Intrusive Relationships (Aesthetics, 2008).

Expanding upon their previous endeavors, Três Cabeças Loucuras plumbs the limitless possibilities of the post digital age. A self-styled sound scientist and former student of the late trumpeter Bill Dixon's vanguard concepts, Mazurek's imaginative approach encompasses limitless sonic possibilities—all of which are entertained in this unrestrained environment. The group casually integrates computer generated loops and samples into its heavily amplified live performances, generating hypnotic electro-acoustic collages; despite the heavy processing, stereo-panning and studio manipulation, the lively rapport transcends mechanical limitations that often plague similar efforts. Takara, Granado and Ribeiro's mastery of traditional Brazilian forms like samba and maracatu lends stylistic authenticity to their excursions, providing a strong rhythmic and melodic basis for the quartet's freewheeling explorations.

The record's prevailing mood is one of celebratory innovation and bold experimentation. Blurring the line between electronic abstraction and acoustic formalism, "Carambola" is indicative of the ensemble's unfettered creativity; supported by understated percussion, the coruscating timbres of the cavaquinho (Brazilian guitar), reverb-laden brass and overdriven keyboards weave harmonious counterpoint into a new fusion of rural and urban tonalities. Underscored by an infectious polyrhythmic shuffle, "Jagoda's Dream" features some of Mazurek's most striking cornet work, while the celestial balladry of "Colibri" spotlights his mellifluous lyricism. Guest vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz and drummer John Herndon lend their estimable talents to the iridescent anthem "Just Lovin'" and the brooding "Six Six Eight," which also includes Matthew Lux on electric bass guitar. The latter number extends the post rock ambience of Herndon's primary band, Tortoise, into a roiling bitches' brew of polyphonic furor.

Brazil's Tropicalisimo movement has come a long way since the seminal efforts of Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil. Sired by the inspired verve of like-minded souls, Três Cabeças Loucuras is more than just a jazz-based extrapolation of a venerable form—it's a fascinating new hybrid.


Track Listing: Jagoda's Dream; Pigeon; Carambola; Colibri; Just Lovin'; Lado Leste; Six Six Eight; Rio Negro.

Personnel: Rob Mazurek: cornet electronics, voice; Mauricio Takara: cavaquinho, drums, percussion, electronics, voice; Guilherme Granado: keyboards, loops, samplers, percussion, voice; Richard Ribeiro: drums, voice; Kiko Dinucci: guitar, voice; Jason Adasiewicz: vibraphone (5, 7); John Herndon: drums (5, 7); Matthew Lux: bass guitar (7).

Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Cuneiform Records


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