Brazilians love experimentation and magical moments; they love assimilating far-flung musical styles, blending them with local rhythms, and imbuing them with graceful elegance. Ravers in Rio de Janeiro and Salvador have recently woven techno and ambient electronica into the mix, making the connection between the sleek minimalism of bossa nova and the wide-open sonic landscape of synthetic pop. So far only a handful of Brazilian club kids have shown up on the radar in the United States, notably the flashy drum 'n' bass/samba DJ Otto and the late mixmaster Suba, whose work with Bebel Gilberto stands as a high-water mark in bossa electronica. A few old-timers are also trying out the new synthesis: Pianist Roberto Menescal, one of the great bossa nova and EZ pop arrangers of the '60s and '70s, has a surprisingly effective techno-tinged album, and Tropicalismo legend Caetano Veloso, a tireless stylistic innovator, has been synth-friendly since the early '80s.
On his debut album, Caetano's son Moreno Veloso emerges as one of Brazil's most skilled electronica artists, though like Gilberto he tempers the technology to fit his needs. Superdeep, nearly subsonic bass anchors gentle acoustic ballads while short-wave trills percolate behind the scenes of the heavier, rock-flavored numbers. Moreno Veloso's subtlety and self-assurance are astonishing for a first-time artist. Clearly his lineage has a lot to do with it: In addition to a remarkable vocal similarity, Moreno inherited his father's all-inclusive, cannibalistic pop aesthetic.
But while Caetano, who's currently pushing age 60, struggled to absorb electronic music, Moreno's generation grew up with remixes in the air; his easygoing appropriation of synthetic stylings feels much more natural and relaxed than his father's. Like New York art-rocker Arto Lindsay, Moreno weaves beautifully layered bossa mutations incorporating rock, funk, and Afro-Brazilian percussion. A duet with Daniel Jobim, grandson of the great bossa nova composer Tom Jobim, closes the album. The two young men join in a whispered, affectionate version of "I'm Wishing" (from Snow White), raising the prospect of a sambadelic Wilson Phillips but also forming a bridge back to the high-class roots of Brazilian pop. Music Typewriter is a testament to Veloso's family tree and stands as one of this year's most skillfully arranged, poetically intoxicating records.
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