By Clara Tehrani
As the week-long celebration of Carnival was head starting a little all over Brazil, Netherlands-based label Music From Memory released a double-LP celebrating another type of Brazilian music, nowadays almost completely ignored. Outro Tempo: Electronic and Contemporary Music From Brazil 1978-1992 counts 17 tracks by obscure artists in the Brazilian scene, progressive artists with early access to synthesizers, field recorders and drum machines in a country that was pushing its way out of a conservative military dictatorship that had been in power since 1964.
In the late 70s through to 1985, when the regime fell, many Brazilian artists’ rebelled and incited rebellion through their music, sometimes more explicitly in lyrics from the likes of Chico Buarque or Raúl Seixas, sometimes more subtly (or even unintentionally) by challenging the traditional sounds of Samba and major, happy chords. This collection, compiled by one of the most knowledgeable music collectors and diggers of present times, John Gomez, stands as a testimony of the latter, of “(…) a generation of forward-thinking musicians (who) developed an alternative vision of Brazilian music and culture. They embraced traditionally shunned electronic production methods and infused their music with elements of ambient, jazz-fusion, and minimalism. At the same time they referenced the musical forms and spirituality of indigenous tribes from the Amazon. The music they produced was a complex and mesmerising tapestry that vividly evoked Brazilian landscapes and simultaneously reached out to the world beyond its borders,” reads the label’s description of the release.
It wasn’t an easy job, for many reasons. John Gomez cites the challenges of finding new music in a country so treaded by diggers, the fascination with Brazilian music being a world-wide phenomenon since the rise of Tropicalia. But there is also another reason making this collection so extraordinary: there isn’t in fact much interest from the Brazilian public towards different, ground-breaking music and thus not so many music fitting that classification; 50 years on, most people still listen to the same MPB records their parents did when they were young, and most artists still rely on the same Samba-inspired rhythms, the same soft-sounding voices of Brazilian country music (Sertanejo), the same drum frenzy of Axê, the same “violão” (guitar) crying the nostalgia inherited by the Portuguese.
It feels like music from another time (Outro Tempo, in Portuguese), a time when the world was changing dramatically, opening up to the globalised society we now live in, before apathy set back in. Outro Tempo: Electronic and Contemporary Music From Brazil, 1978-1992 shows an aural side of the country unknown to most, even Brazilians. John Gomez says in an interview with Stamp the Wax that some artists whose songs are now being publish in this collection hadn’t heard their own music in years, and sometimes failed to see its connection with the classification ‘electronic’. It is, indeed, a lateral interpretation of the word, especially given contemporary production methods. But listening to Cinema’s Sem Teto, one can begin to understand Gomez’s idea behind it, the use of filters and warps discreetly in the background which occasionally takes over the organic sounds; there are the early ambient-inspired tracks like Anno Luz’s Por Quê, which starts exploring reverberations that then marry Amazonian-sounding flutes and a melancholic guitar, and Marco Bosco’s Sol da Manhã which begins with a distorted Berimbau sound evolving to an almost dark ambient mood; but it is Andréa Daltro’s Kiuá that sets the bar and the disposition for the record – samples of native birds, the bird-sounding singing of Andréa over electronic percussion and bass lines.
Demand for new uncharted music that will set DJ sets apart rises, alongside that of vinyl, making this collection all the more precious – released on Feb 20, the album sold out in just a couple of days. Besides its sociological and anthropological value, there is the magnificent music it features. Have a listen here.