traumatic harmony
the pataphysical study of randomized sound
Songs of my Life, pt 2: Os Brazões "Pega a Voga Cabeludo"

Of all the music I've discovered while working at the Dusty Groove, Os Brazões are possibly my favorite. Essentially, they were for Gal Costa what Os Mutantes were for Gilberto Gil, a psychedelic backing band that went on to do their own thing. However, unlike their genre-bending older brothers, Os Brazões never really got any recognition anywhere. I'd never heard of them until a Brazilian reissue of their one and only album randomly appeared in store and even more randomly appeared as a play copy. I was sold on it immediately, a slightly less ambitious version of Os Mutantes that's plenty psychedelic, with requisite references to everyone from Hendrix (in "Canastra Real") to Sergio Mendes ("Caroline, Carol Bela") and everything in between.

It is the album's opener, though, that really hits me. It begins with a slow build of congas then flutes (two of them, in gloriously paired harmony) then a closed high hat then some groovy acoustic guitar strumming that takes about 30 seconds to fully gestate and (to paraphrase a friend) more or less begs, pleads, demands some kind of crazy acid/fuzz guitar lick. Os Brazões leave you in suspense for a few more seconds, letting the anticipation build before unleashing a monster of riff that runs almost continuously for the song's duration. Then, they start singing in occasionally broken harmonies but with a fantastic staccato delivery that is quintessentially Brazilian. I wish I knew what they were saying, but that's probably for the best since I can't really imagine that their lyrics are really that interesting. The song follows a pretty normal arc, ending with a fun little wink of a guitar chord. I can't quite figure out why these guys didn't somehow get revived in the David Byrne inspired resurgence of all things Brazillian in the mid 90s. Maybe it's because in the end they aren't as exceptionally different as the Tom Zes, Caetano Velosos, and Gilberto Gils of the world. Their lack of inclusion on the first Tropecalia compilation probably sealed their fate as an also-ran. But all this is just speculation. Their biography is totally spotty for those of us who can't read Portuguese. They are, however, a competent, occasionally brilliant, melange of all the styles in the air in Brazil in the late 1960s that are more than deserving of some recognition. 
The Numero Group

My first real feature for Dusted got published today, talking about the workings and ideas behind the fantastic Chicago reissue label The Numero Group. Check it out. 
Songs of my Life, pt. 1: Espers "Dead Queen"

This is the beginning of what I think will be a long term series of musing on the songs that dominate my conscience in day to day life.

"Dead Queen" is the first track from Espers' forthcoming album Espers II coming out on Drag City. My feelings on Espers are pretty well documented (see my Dusted reviews of Espers and The Weed Tree), so I'll only mention that they're probably my favorite band out of Philadelphia right now. That said, I can think of no song to better summarize what they're about than this one. First of all, it's proof that the passacaglia is alive and well in the 21st century (or perhaps, that Espers never quite managed to escape the 15th), taking a fairly simple chord progression and repeating it for over 8 minutes without it ever getting old. I would go into why the chord progression works, but that would probably be a super-boring discussion for everyone except the uber-dorky music grad student geeks (like myself), so suffice it so say, the progression is tart without being effusive, despite its minor key. In fact, this song probably works because it is nearly emotionless: Meg Baird's multi-tracked voice shimmers but expresses a mood instead of a feeling; the interlocking cello lines have something to say but stand back and let you determine what exactly that something is; and the organs buzz neutrally, adding texture, not meaning. The only time this mask gets pulled back is for the fuzz and wah-wah drenched guitar solo in the middle. Amazingly, I get goose bumps at a different part of that solo every time I hear it. You might now ask, "how could a song be worthwhile if it has no feeling?" To which I reply that this has the same mystic allure as a masquerade ball, the sense that there could be anything behind the silent grin and the danger that comes with it. Or, alternately, it is like the flash of bare flesh in a veiled society; that little bit of skin means that much more when things remain hidden. And perhaps in a culture where everyone's screwed up emotions are on display all the time on reality tv, it is reserve that is the truly radical statement. 

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Location: Durham, NC

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Albums/Things of the Moment

Gal Costa - Gal
X - Los Angeles/Wild Gift
Steve Reich - Music for 18 Musicians
The Factums - The Sistrum
The Dark Knight
Jay Reatard - Matador 7"s
Sub Pop Singles Club III
Mississippi Records
Byard Lancaster

Radio Waves

lexicon devil
agony shorthand
keeping score at home
something I learned today
deadly tango
her jazz
strange reaction
god and a bottle in me
in case of mishaps
20 jazz funk greats
funky 16 corners
moon sash
mental archipelago
crud crud
just for a day
little hits
everything is fire

Odds and Sods
my old wprb playlists
my reviews on dusted
dusty groove

August 2002 / September 2002 / October 2002 / November 2002 / December 2002 / January 2003 / February 2003 / March 2003 / April 2003 / May 2003 / June 2003 / July 2003 / August 2003 / September 2003 / October 2003 / November 2003 / December 2003 / January 2004 / February 2004 / September 2004 / December 2004 / January 2005 / February 2005 / March 2005 / April 2005 / September 2005 / October 2005 / November 2005 / December 2005 / January 2006 / February 2006 / March 2006 / April 2006 / May 2006 / June 2006 / July 2006 / July 2008 /
all posts before december 2004 are old wprb playlists. I wish I could say I've been blogging that long, but that's simply not the truth.

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