A joy

One of the leading South American festivals of electronic and experimental music, I gather, is Novas Frequências, held somewhere in Brazil (the website for the 10th edition, held last year, doesn’t seem to specify!) The festival’s curator, Chico Dub, also curated a series of compilations between 2013 and 2016, ten volumes under the rubric of ‘Hy Brazil’. For some reason, in my haphazard explorations of online music, the first of these came to my attention, and eight years later, I’ve gotten around to listening to it properly.

The first thing I should note is that much of what this music means is inevitably lost on me. Brazil is home do a dizzying array of musical traditions, and its electronic music has witnessed just as complex and thorough a process of fractal stylistic diversification as has been seen in Europe and America. I know very little about all of that, so many of the associations that come with the fourteen cuts on this compilation are missing from my encounter with them: the classic tunes they refer to, the regional and class allegiances of different styles, the practices they subvert, the long histories of music making in which these sounds are embedded. My interests tend to be excessively wide-ranging in any case, so there are few areas of music where my knowledge goes deep enough to truly appreciate such subtleties, but in this case all the resonances that are struck come from my exposure to electronic and indie music in other traditions, and to Brazilian music of much earlier eras.

The sway of samba can be heard in much Brazilian music, an irresistible pelvic oscillation that swings a straight-eighths rhythm as deep as any jazz, and feels to me like a doubling of funk’s One, depositing that heavy downbeat alternately to the left and the right. That’s present here on many of these tracks, especially on the opener, Tropkillaz’s ‘Let The Ba$$’, whose monotone bass thunder could remind the most uptight that they have a booty. There’s a huge range of rhythms on Hy Brazil Vol 1, some with a much lighter touch, and some with a more straight feel akin to techno or rock, but the overall emphasis here is definitely on stuff you can dance to. Stacked above all of the bass and rhythm, is a fantastically creative diversity of textures and atmospherics, generated by the usual producers’ toolkit of sampling and synthesis, but seeming to cleave to a common aesthetic of some sort. Whether there is anything specifically Brazilian about it, I’m not qualified to judge, but there is a coherence to this collection, despite the wide range of styles and practices included.

Having spent a few months repeatedly hearing this stuff, I’m inclined to go and dig into the other nine compilations in the series, all of which are available on Chico Dub’s Bandcamp as pay-what-you-want downloads, with no minimum price. Judging by the subtitles (this comp promises ‘fresh electronic music from Brazil 2013’), they cover a variety of ground, from the experimental to the entertaining, but if the quality’s consistent they’ll all be worth a listen. Vol 1 has given me immersive atmospherics, heavy heavy grooves, and a great deal of careful, detailed craftspersonship to admire. It’s been a joy.

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