Various Artists - Psychedelic Pernambuco

by Rich Morris Rating:8 Release Date:2011-06-20

Discovering a whole pocket of fantastic music you previously knew nothing about is something of a holy grail for music obsessives and writers alike. So imagine the joy unbridled when this compilation of ultra obscure 60s and 70s Brazilian psychedelia found its way to Soundblab towers. Collecting the output of members of a collective in Recife, the capital of Pernambuco, in South-East Brazil, the music on Psychedelic Pernambuco mixes folk, samba, tropicália, bossa nova and, as you would expect from that title, lashings of psychedelic weirdness.

Largely cut off from hipper cities such as Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro and the culturally-minded state of Bahia, the hippies of Recife developed their own style and scene. However, despite an abundance of both diversity and vitality, this music was doomed to remain little-known. The prime movers of the Recife scene displayed behaviour seemingly designed to piss off the state's military authorities as much as possible: boys wearing make up, nudity and flagrant displays of affection on stage were common. The reaction was predictable and brutal: many artists had their albums, released on the Rozeblit label, seized and destroyed.

The music on this compilation is like entering another world, Alice in Wonderland style, both familiar and thrillingly strange. While the influence of bands such as The Beatles and The Velvet Underground can be detected on songs such as the 'Eleanor Rigby'-like 'Novena' or the excellent, Loaded-era VU indebted '8 Rotacoes' (both tracks by Geraldo Azevedo & Alceu Valença) the phrasing of the singing often seems out of joint, coming out as free-form, sexually-charged gabling which can be both funny and enthralling to English attuned ears. Elsewhere, we get the furious stoner rock of opening track 'Sorriso Selvagem' by The Gentlemen, the African percussion onslaught of Marconi Notaro's Maracatu, and Lula Côrtes integrating some Indian influences into the characteristically trippy 'Noite Prêta'.

However, it's the deviations and experiments which exert the greatest fascination Witness the ornate, wailing craziness of 'Marácas De Fogo' by Lula Côrtes& Zé Ramalho (which finishes with smashed glass sound effects), or 'Ah Vida Avida' by Marconi Notaro, which starts off sounding like a Clanger snorting a line of coke and only gets stranger from there. Then there's Geraldo Azevedo & Alceu Valença's ridiculously funky, itchy 'Planetario', which sounds like it's on heat and ready to leg-hump anyone in sight.

Meanwhile, the acid-tweaked detuned folk of Marconi Notara's 'Antrpologica' and the Hitchcock theme-meets-nightmare lullaby of Geraldo Azevedo & Alceu Valença's 'Virgem Virginia' just has to be heard to be believed. Such nuggets are as far out as you could want this kind of music to be. Scene main-man Lula Côrtes, who died in March this year, claimed that inspiration for his Satwa album (tracks of which feature on here) was "beamed straight from his third eye".

As wonderful as it is to unearth this music, much of it as strange and other as it was when it was first recorded, and to learn about the scene which birthed it, it's also a little sad: you wonder about the influence these artists could have had on wider culture had they happened to make their music in a more accepting society. On the other hand, great music often finds a way to flourish in hostile environments and that's certainly the case here. This is music which deserves, demands even, to be heard around the world.

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