São Paulo Underground Cantos Invisiveis
Published Nov 16, 2016São Paulo Underground features Chicago and Sao Paulo musicians blending free jazz, tropicalia, electronic music and noise. On their new album, they evoke a sense of spiritualism through group chant and hand percussion: freely improvised solos float in and out of jazz-samba orchestrations and ritualistic grooves; national borders melt away as easily as bar-lines.
Tropicalia has a history of irreverence towards tradition, particularly nationalist ones, having sprung up in 1960s Brazil. Free jazz has a similar distaste for authority that traces back to the 1950s. Both challenge convention — tropicalia by drawing together disparate influences, and free jazz by challenging formalized rules about which notes go where.
While it could sound like a mess to some, to others Cantos Invisiveis will sound like jubilation bubbling out from an imaginary hybridized landscape, part foggy rainforest, part urban jungle. Probably the most successful examples are in the second half of the album. "Fire and Chime," which starts with a funky intro, gets ridiculously far out in the middle, and then "plays the head out." "Olhaluai" is built around a pentatonic melody that rhythmically shifts in ways that might make Philip Glass proud. "Of Golden Summer" features a gentle and meditative trumpet solo over a simple progression.
"Cambodian Street Carnival" is cute and has some pretty melodic parts, but is mired in too much unnecessary percussion and electronic noise, which perhaps exemplifies the fatal flaw of this record: trying to be too many things at once. In some ways, the geographical and temporal dislocation becomes a bit too tangled to want to follow and one just wishes for a bit more here and now. (Cuneiform)