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Tom Ze: Com Defeito de Fabricacao

Tom Ze, the slightly zany, incurably creative singer-producer-composer, is from Brazil, yes. He is, for the record, an important veteran figure in the Tropicalia movement of the late ’60s in which restless Brazilian musicians sought to interweave influences from pop and jazz and their native soil, to the dismay of purists.

But, most importantly, Tom Ze is from the land of Tom Ze, a place where fetching tunes, bizarre asides, and undulating Brazilian rhythmic vigor all meet, along with other sounds you can’t quite place. Ze’s long-awaited follow-up to Hips of Tradition, his last album on Luaka Bop, has finally arrived, in the form of the thoroughly charming and strange Com Defeito de Fabricacao (Fabrication Defect) (Luakabop 46953; 36:45). Unison lines, ideas reminiscent of art rock, and strange textures pop up in unexpected places, but the whole thing grooves with a kind of self-motivated inevitability-the hallmark of all innovative art that actually works.

It’s a pleasure to hear Ze’s studiocraft in action, with constructs of electric and acoustic instruments, stitched together with a taste for quirky juxtapositions, but always serving musical ends. Fittingly, Luaka Bop has announced plans for release of a remix of the project, which poses as a kind of comic sci-fi concept album. The theme: humanity’s “defects,” our weakness for desires and emotional vulnerability, are weighed against the inhumanity of a mechanized, media-dulled world. But you don’t have to understand the lyrics to get the feeling. It all ends in an accordion-abetted frenzy on the closing “Xiquexique.” Accidentally or providentially, Ze’s latest construction sounds up to date in the late ’90s, in an age when cut-and-paste and genre-shuffling are operative modes. But few do it with such natural, seductive ease. Tom Ze is one of a kind, and he’s back, thankfully.

Originally Published