It’s pretty much a given that if you’ve got Airto Moreira on your debut album then you’re working at a certain level… And from that point of view this album doesn’t disappoint. It is beautifully played and recorded (no overdubs – straight to 2” analog tape), very natural and with minimal interference or production. The not-yet 30 years old Fabiano do Nascimento’s guitar work is exquisite and the rapport between him and the rhythm section intriguing, yet effortless. The vast majority of tracks feature guitar in a dialogue with kit drums or percussion – and it’s testament to the artists that they are complete in themselves with just that. The legendary Airto Moreira is on percussion (rich, yet subtle) and his excellent, long-standing, drummer, Ricardo “Tiki” Pasillas is on kit (played more like percussion than standard kit). Female vocals are by the delightful Kana Shimanuki and male vocals by Do Nascimento himself. (See track listings below for details). The whole album is like an evolution of Brazilian folklore. Brazil’s musical heritage is both wide and deep – and but a fraction of it leaves the country. On this album Do Nascimento and his collaborators dive into this lake of music and come up with pearls every time…
The opening track “Forro Brasil” is a lovely, breezy entrée into the rhythms of Brazil’s nordestino culture. Whereas much forró music evokes hot, sweat-driven parties with gyrating dancing couples packed onto dance floors this one points more to the airy, uninhabited interior of the sertão (the dry, semi-desert region of North East Brazil with the semi-mythical history of outlaws and hard men). There is loads of space in this instrumental (with just acoustic guitar and drumkit as a duo hard-panned right and left) and a wistful air of melancholy in a private conversation.
“Ewe” is, again, a piece full of air and rustling sounds as Fabiano’s curiously-treated guitar ‘clacks’ out a pretty melody and Airto gently clatters around in the background with woodblocks, seed-filled shakers, rope-tied nuts and dried fruits. When Kana Shimanuki’s vocals come in they flow over the over two instrumentalists like a bubbling stream. The effect is both enchanting and calming.
The album returns to the North of Brazil once more with “O Ovo” a fast dance piece using just drum kit and guitar again – but in the hands of these two, who on earth needs anything else?
“Iemenja” – features just guitar – and it’s a real mood piece: as deep and blue as the sea of which Iemenja is the afro-brazilian goddess.
“Primeira Estrella” – is a dance piece featuring Do Nascimento’s vocals. The guitar and kit then segue into a 6/8 with shekere percussion and male/female vocals.
“Etude” – is very much in Classical Guitar territory with rippling arpeggios and subtle descending chord sequences that lead you deeper and deeper into a musical labyrinth. The drumming is of course exemplary and just drives the whole piece along. My mind kept conjuring images of someone being chased through a woodland or maze at twilight never quite seeing what was behind them and only glimpses of what lay ahead. Magical.
“Minha Ciranda” – Kana’s crystal clear vocals return over this lively Pernambucan classic written by Capiba.
“Nana” – Acoustic bass joins the trio of guitar, kit and male vocals for this beautiful piece in 6/8. Do Nascimento’s guitar seems to double as a percussion instrument here.
“Tocatta em Ritmo de Samba” – another guitar and drum work-out with a guitar breakdown in the middle.
“Se Ela Preguntar” – one of my favourite pieces on the album; but I am a complete sucker for sentimental, heart-string plucking South American romantic tunes. Love this. Fabiano’s guitar work marks out the melody without overly embellishing it, allowing the simple but innate loveliness of the composition to speak for itself. For me, gorgeous.
“Tupi” – finally, another piece that hints at the majesty and grandeur of Brazil’s vast tracts of land and empty spaces and the history of it’s early inhabitants. Guaranteed to take you to another place and time…