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04/22/12

São Paulo Underground
Três Cabeças Lourcuras
Cuneiform Records

Rob Mazurek can always be counted on to lead a number of groups, from the large-scale drone and swirl of the Exploding Star Orchestra to the hard-driving trio Starlicker, one of 2011’s most impressive acts. No matter what he plays, Mazurek executes on cornet with a delicate beauty, even as he channels his mentor Bill Dixon’s guttural blasts. São Paulo Underground, the result of a move to Brazil a dozen years ago, is no exception, as it creates dreamy sound sculptures.

In a way, SPU’s sound resembles dub reggae, where disembodied sounds fly in and out of the music over a simple chord structure. However, that music relies on bass for foundation, and only one track includes that instrument. Instead, drummers Mauricio Takara and Richard Ribeiro and keyboardist Guilherme Granado create polyrhythmic grooves for Mazurek to color. “Jagoda’s Dream” combines tense drumming with a long-tone cornet line, the perfect example of Mazurek’s lyrical depth. At other times things sound a little less composed, more the result of studio effects completing the arrangement (three of them are also credited with electronics). But even here, the sources can be surprising. The over-modulated noodling of “Pigeon” is based on a Brazilian maracatu, while the fully realized “Just Lovin’” is built on a loop.

The latter track adds Starlicker’s Jason Adasiewicz (vibes) and John Herndon (drums), pumping up the energy even further. With guitarist/vocalist Kiko Dunucci also appearing throughout the album, it becomes unclear who exactly contributes what to the songs. Better to sit back and take everything in.

Originally published in April 2012
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