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A Comfortable Outsider: Interview with A Hawk and A Hacksaw

My interview with Jeremy Barnes of A Hawk and A Hacksaw has just been published by Drowned In Sound. Here’s how it starts:

Ever since I first saw Jeremy Barnes perform as A Hawk and A Hacksaw in Nottingham’s Bunker’s Hill Inn I have kept a close eye on this group of his. At that point it was just a solo project, involving one man with a drum kit and accordion, playing cymbals with the drumsticks that were attached to his head. It was clear that his music was moving in a different direction to his earlier work with Bablicon and Neutral Milk Hotel.

In 2004 he met Heather Trost and A Hawk and a Hacksaw become a two-piece, decamping to Budapest, Hungary, which seemed to complete the direction in sound Barnes had been taking; the influence of Eastern European music was now unredoubtable. It’s something they’ve explored considerably since, right up to Cervantine, released earlier this year.

You can read the article in full at Drowned In Sound.

The impact of tropicalia rumbles on!

Without question one of my favourite styles of music is tropicália. Without it I wouldn’t be able to freak out to the sounds of Os Mutantes, bask in the glory of Caetano Veloso’s words, groove to Gilberto Gil and generally sit in astonishment at the sheer unbridled joy of Rogerio Duprat’s arrangements. With a covers compilation approaching this summer and a documentary in the works it seems as if a few people may well get to discover a little more about this music also. Continue reading The impact of tropicalia rumbles on!

A History of Tropicália

This piece has just been published at Latineos, a history of Tropicália, one of the most joyful styles of music ever to emerge from this planet. Here’s the intro:

It would be near impossible to recreate the circumstances that resulted in tropicália. In 1967, Brazil’s repressive military government had been in charge for three years and Brazilian music was in status quo. The authorities were happy that samba was the favourite music of the nation – they saw it as the perfect marketing tool – and didn’t see the need for change. This was a climate in which João Gilberto’s beautiful hybridisation of samba into bossa nova drew stinging criticisms from those who thought it was un-Brazilian. Continue reading A History of Tropicália

Review: Ranil y su Conjunto – Ranil’s Jungle Party

I wrote a review of Ranil’s Jungle Party by Ranil y su Conjunto for PopMatters, which was published on 9th February 2011. Here is the opening salvo:

Amazonian guitar legend shows how rock ‘n’ roll was done in Peru…

The recent successes of the Roots of Chicha and Roots of Chicha 2 compilations, released on Barbes Records, have brought a renewed interest in Peruvian music. This has helped with the recent promotion of Pena (Secret Stash Records), an album of Afro-Peruvian music, and has also made it possible for albums like Ranil y su Conjunto’s Ranil’s Jungle Party to attract a decent level of publicity.

To read the rest of the review click HERE.

Sounds of the Underground: Trupe Chá de Boldo

This preview originally appeared in Time Out Sao Paulo (March 2011) though may have been published in a slightly different form.

Sounds of the Underground: Trupe Chá de Boldo

With a loyal following in São Paulo, especially among musicians (Tom Zé is a fan, declaring that they have achieved chart success in his home at least), Trupe Chá de Boldo are surely headed for success. They only released their first album Bárbaro in 2009, yet already sound like the finished article; their lyrics, arrangements and musical abilities are all of the highest standard, and live they flourish. Their ability to switch from laid-back samba to up-tempo reggae in a flash means the party could erupt at any moment. Add to this the drum solos, rampant horn section and rousing vocals and you have a fervent mix indeed.

With a bed of influences that also includes tango and balkan music (i.e. Gogol Bordello) this is a must-see band for anyone who enjoys music that swings. The band, which features 14 members, will be playing a number of dates through March, none of which will break the bank. See below for details:

Studio SP – 3rd March
SESC Bauru – 23rd March
SESC Pompeia – 24th March
SESC Rio Preta – 30th March

Album Review: Blubell – Eu Sou do Tempo que a Gente se Telefonava

This album review was published in Time Out Sao Paulo (March 2011) though may have appeared in a slightly different form.

Album Review: Blubell – Eu Sou do Tempo que a Gente se Telefonava
(4 stars)

YB Music – Released: 21st January 2011

It’s taken Isabel Garcia (aka Blubell) five years to follow-up her first album Slow Motion Ballet, yet her voice has never been far away in her native São Paulo. As well as singing in the jazz band À Deriva she has featured on countless advertising jingles as well as providing the theme song for the Brazilian TV comedy Aline. None of these things should be too surprising once you listen to this album, a mixture of jazz and pop which is both polished, maybe too much at times, and catchy. It seems those day jobs providing jingles has given her a special gift, as proven by the fact that I can’t get the melody to “Chalala” out of my head. I was so sure I’d heard it before that I almost shorted my brain trying to work out who recorded it first before realising that the whole album is self-penned, with just a couple of co-conspirators helping out on the odd song.

Blubell pulls this trick of instant-familiarity on many of the tracks here, such as the prowling Shirley Bassey jazz of “Pessoa Normal” and opening track “Musica” which despite featuring a kazoo manages not to irritate. Except for the odd flash of bossa nova guitar this is an album more in tune with new British artists such as Paloma Faith and Eliza Doolittle, adding much-needed swing and suave to pop music, than her Brazilian counterparts, yet could well be the sound of the Brazilian summer.

Three We Loved Last Month: Karina Buhr

This short live review was written for Time Out Sao Paulo (March 2011) but was not published.

Three we loved last month: Karina Buhr
SESC Belenzinho
Feb 11, 2010

Dressed in a gold-sequinned catsuit, Karina Buhr proved at SESC Belenzinho why her debut album (Eu Mentí Pra Você) was voted so highly in many of 2010’s Best of the Year polls. She did that, and surpassed it. Whether she was sabotaging her guitarist’s solo by writhing on the floor in front of him, throwing herself into the audience or proving that you don’t have to be in your teens to bump ‘n’ grind like the best of them, it was hard to take your eyes off her. Which is almost a shame as she has put together one of the hottest bands in Brazil. Whether attempting punk in “Soldat,” electro in “Cirando do Incentivo” or cool jazz with “Eu Mentí pra Você” this is a band that know, both musically and theatrically, how to put on a great show.

Preview: Moraes Moreira

This preview appeared in Time Out Sao Paulo (March 2011), although it may have been in a slightly different form:

Preview:  Moraes Moreira

With Moraes Moreira playing three nights at SESC Pinheiros and the national release of the film Filhos de João, March could well be the month of Os Novos Baianos. The last few years have already been something of a revival for the band, with Rolling Stone Brasil naming their 1972 album Acabou Choraré the Best Brazilian Album of All-Time and the Moreira-penned A História dos Novos Baianos e Outros Versos resulting in a reunion tour and CD. Moreira, who in the 60s was writing songs in Salvador and regularly hanging out with Caetano Veloso in the city’s bars, was one of the founding members of Os Novos Baianos, achieving huge success in the 70s once Acabou Choraré, their second album was released. The album saw the band adopt a unique mix of chorinho and samba after bossa-king João Gilberto turned up on their door-step (the album was originally going to have an electric/rock sound). This incident is the reason for the name of a new documentary about the group; Filhos de João, which is being released nationally this March. Moreira left for a solo career at the end of the 70s, essentially signalling the end of the band, and its many of the songs from this era that he will be playing at SESC Pinheiros, as well as launching a new book that looks at this period of his life.

Moraes Moreira is playing at SESC Pinheiros on March 11th (9pm), 12th (9pm) & 13th(6pm). R$30/15/7.50.

Filhos de João, Admirável Mundo Novo Baiano is in cinemas nationwide from March.