Friday, May 18, 2012

Music Library: Orthrelm, Os Brazões, Os Lobos, Os Mutantes

There are two parts to my listening project: (a) listening to everything in my iTunes library and (b) writing about it. There may be a third part: (c) deleting the things I dislike, but I have rarely taken that step. I write about it here, and while my last update was six months ago, but I have kept up the other side, the actual listening. Since we left off with Ornette Coleman, I plan to finish the Os and then do a little catch-up with albums that I either purchased after the point where I would have regularly reviewed them or just flat-out missed for some reason. Anyway, without any further ado, I’m going to try to update this thing more regularly.

Orthrelm – Iorxhscimtor (2001) and OV (2005). To my mind, this is approximately the same sort of skronk-metal that Hella plays, although friends more immersed in the two bands tell me that they are quite different in purpose and ambition. I forget exactly how, and the music itself offers no clues. The upshot: this is great stuff for clearing a room or befuddling your own mind, with millions of guitar notes matching the millions of beats per second in the tempo. Fast, loud, annoying, and somewhat dangerous.

Os Brazões - Os Brazões (1969). Trippy garage tropicalia with heavy fuzz.

Os Lobos – Os Lobos (1971). Poppier but less effective (because it is far more polite) tropicalia. No heavy fuzz.

Os Mutantes – Os Mutantes (1968), Mutantes (1969), A Divina Comedia Ou Ando Meio Desligado (1970), Jardim Eletrico (1971), Haih Or Amortecedor (2009), Everything Is Possible: The Best Of Os Mutantes (1968-1972). One of the most incredible things about tropicalia is how it takes the very familiar, in this case the psychedelic sides of The Beatles and the Beach Boys along with a smattering of Nugget-era garage rock, and turns it into something half-alien. It is easy to dismiss something that is utterly alien; without a roadmap, people have been dismissing and/or destroying unfamiliar culture since prehistoric times. The half-familiar/half-alien, though, is intriguing. Where Os Mutantes is concerned, they are at their best when the music sounds familiar enough to rope the listener in, but full of unexpected and delightful weirdness. The first three albums are all full of sudden left turns that the kids in Mutantes built from a combination of the indigenous music of Brazil and their own art-damaged big-city ideals. The first two, actually, are the best of the lot, leaping from fuzz-driven garage rock to chamber-pop to polyrhythmic chanting, sometimes in the same three-minute rock song. The third album is a more ambitious concept album (I think), but it also delivers with some of the most brilliantly bizarre Mutantes tracks. Jardim Eletrico, unfortunately, is trying hard to be both weird and poppy, and it only succeeds on a track or two. The best parts of that album appear on the well-named compilation Everything Is Possible, which also collects some of the greatest tracks of the first three and a middling track from a later album. Haih Or Amortecedor was hailed as a triumphant return for the band, but to my ears, it lacks the effortless fun of the first three albums without dropping to the lows of the fourth. It sounds like the work of an older, less spontaneous band, and while it is not exactly calculated, it doesn’t inspire.


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