Outro Tempo II: sounds from the early Brazilian electronic underground

A few months ago, Jack Carolan laid out a Brazilian music primer based on record-hunting in São Paulo, the third biggest city on Earth. He described the ear- and eye-melting task of trying to navigate actual vinyl store shopping malls with hundreds of thousands of records, with any kind of discerning idea of what to look for.

He also reminded me of the absurdity of the term ‘Brazilian music’ as a genre, even if we can’t help it evoking images of Os Mutantes or Sergio Mendes LPs. We get it abroad too – I recall trying not to eye-roll in Colombia every time a new stranger name-dropped the Cranberries and U2 after hearing I was Irish. It’s like shite discos treating ‘the 80s’ as a genre, as if the DJ might throw in a bit of Black Flag, Bathory or Virgo Four along with Like a Virgin.

Jack’s list was a great primer on crucial Brazilian psych, jazz and funk from artists such as Moacir Santos, Miguel de Deus and Azymuth, mostly centred around the 60s and 70s – the era beloved by DJs such as Floating Points and Gilles Peterson.

London-based DJ John Gómez chose a different rabbit hole to get sucked into, when compiling the 2017 compilation Outro Tempo on Amsterdam label Music From Memory. Subtitled Electronic and Contemporary Music From Brazil 1978-1992, it’s a stunning clash of indigenous music from the Amazon, Tropicália, jazz, new age and psychedelia, soldered into new forms by avant-garde electronics.

Screenshot 2019-06-12 at 15.09.37
May East

Outro Tempo II is a further electronic exploration, with a tighter time period of 1984-1992. Most of the artists here continue to inch into the future, apparent from the Belgian new beat vibes of opener Maraka from May East, touched up with jazzy synth solos, or the No Wave minimalism of Fausto Fawcett’s brilliantly named Shopping de Voodoos.  Elsewhere, Akira S’s Tokei is a gleaming city pop beauty, while Voluntários da Pátria must’ve been mainlining Vangelis’s Blade Runner Blues at the time.

The traditional elements aren’t ditched totally – Oharaska incorporates indigenous chants and bowed instruments, but adds cosmic new age left turns that wouldn’t sound out of place on an Enya record. And Julio Pimental’s Gersal has a shapeshifting pitter-patter backbone of traditional hand drums, elevated by ultra-def vaporwave synth wisps.

In an interview with Test Pressing last month, Gomez recalls initially going to Brazil armed with a portable record player without much of a clue, but after volume 1 he’s been embraced by music veterans, DJs and labels – and fondly describes a series of WhatsApp messages kickstarted by Azymuth’s drummer Ivan Conti to secure a track by the late Tião Neto. He’s made it clear that he isn’t a cheeseball musical tourist, not for instance, “clichéd images of an Ipanema sunset or a black kid playing football in a favela”. It feels like he’s on a proper quest to share, and I’m all ears.