Personnel: Rob Mazurek (cornet, Mellotron, synthesizer, percussion); Mauricio Takara (cavaquinho, drums, percussion, electronics); Thomas Rohrer (flute, saxophone, soprano saxophone, percussion, electronics); Guilherme Granado (keyboards, synthesizer, percussion).
Audio Mixers: Manuel Calderón; Rob Mazurek.
Recording information: Comanche Sound, Sonic Ranch, El Paso, TX.
The last time we heard from Rob Mazurek's Sao Paulo Underground was as part of the Black Cube SP sextet on 2014's truly glorious Return the Tides: Ascension Suite and Holy Ghost. Multi-instrumentalist Thomas Rohrer was part of that group, and on Cantos Invisiveis, he joins the trumpeter, drummer/percussionist Mauricio Takara, and keyboardist Guilherme Granado, making the band a quartet. These nine selections were recorded in Texas; they offer an almost entirely new view of SPU, one that falls outside musical classification. Here, east and west, northern and southern hemispheres, speak through tropical, desert, ritual, and party sounds that are all inscribed upon one another in a unique, often delirious language.
While opener "Estrada Para o Oeste" commences as an informal celebratory jam that evokes carnival with its clashing percussion and chanting over its nearly 14 minutes, it layers in brassy marches, flute improvisations, (think Hermeto Pascoal), slippery post-bop, and free jazz with cinematic electronics and folk music. All members chant and sing as choro, maracatu, and samba bleed into one another before coming to a close in abstract, rhythmless electronic and trumpet fragments. The sudden interruption of "Violent Orchid Parade," a street party in overdrive amid circular martial rhythms and knotty layered post-bop saxes and trumpets holding sway, is jarring. It's answered in turn by the dream-like "Cambodian Street Carnival," with a mysterious repetitive vamp that recalls Weather Report's "125th Street Congress" with chants throughout, and cavaquinho, rabeca, and berimbau as highlight instruments. "Lost Corners Boogie" commences as abstract electronic noise before its synths find a fractured, funky groove, with Mazurek's horn spattering the amorphous body of the vamp. The most beautiful tune here is "Olhaluai." It seamlessly melds all the musics that have come before it with handclaps, percussion, voices, saxophones, trumpet, stringed instruments, samples, and keyboards. Its melody is as infectious and memorable as Ornette Coleman's "Dancing in Your Head," though it sounds nothing like it. "Falling Down from the Sky Like Some Damned Ghost" is the set closer and longest track at over 16 minutes. It unfolds slowly and elementally as a group improvisation, albeit one held together by the strength of Takara's amazing kit work. Its skeleton is transformed into a psychedelic open mountain song via modular Moogs, Mellotron, and electronics that wind on and on. A drone wipes out the melody and a hypnotic rhythm and harmony then introduce Mazurek's horn. He offers his own minimally stated theme in return, and delivers a short solo to whisper Cantos Invisiveis to a close. This recording is both intimate and inimitable. Its utter strangeness is far from off-putting, however; in fact, it's aesthetic is downright seductive in its uncompromising, poetic, delirious allure. ~ Thom Jurek