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Monday, January 3, 2022

São Paulo Underground and Tupperwear - Saturno Mágico (Keroxen, 2021) ****½

By Gary Chapin

Cornetist Rob Mazurek was new to me when I read Stef Gijssels review of the latest Exploding Star Orchestra recording back in April. Listening to that disc sent me down the Mazurek rabbit hole — who knew such a hole existed? — and it has improved the quality of my mid-pandemic life. I initially missed the São Paulo Underground recordings (there are a few on Cuneiform ) just because … I guess I’m less obsessively observant as I age into obsolescence. But Saturno Mágico did come through my transom specifically because I was craving something I’d never heard before. I listened. I went through that gobsmacked period where you're thinking, “This sounds familiar, and so good! Why familiar?” Then you look and see and you’re like, “Huh. Maurek. That makes sense.”

But this isn’t solely, or even mostly, a Mazurek production. São Paulo Underground is a po-mo/electronic/improv trio also featuring Brazilian musicians Mauricio Takara and Guilherme Granado. They are joined by Tenerife (Canary Island) electronica “pranksters” Mladen Kurajica and Daniel Garcia. Everyone plays a bunch of different sound making devices. Here’s from the label:

Each member plays multiple roles in creating Saturno Mágico’s unique organic evolving sound. Mazurek plays cornet and modular synths; Takara’s on drums, cavaquinho and electronics, whilst Granado plays keyboards, synthesizers, and sampler. Tupperwear add to the organic flow with Kurajica on various synths and keyboards whilst Garcia excels on electronics, live sampling, guitar and voices.

The product is an EP of only 25’21” that is a genuine argument for brevity’s wit. It opens with a pastoral drum/whistle/thumb-piano bird of paradise vibe, and then skips into lost-souls-but-not-actually-caring-that-they-are-lost with synth pads. Each track is a new mise en scene but with shared characters or vibes, sudden but not abrupt. It doesn’t necessarily make logical sense, but it makes sense.

The crew here use every rhythmic tool they have to create a driving half hour. Free improv sections (never the same way twice) alternate with samples and repetition (never a different way once) in a super intriguing way. You can hear the industry in here, along with the Canary Islands tropical. The replicated musique concrete of “Guanabanach” leads into a very Frippian (if Fripp had a sense of humor) guitar ostinato that is simply addictive. (Can someone count that? Is it 13 or 11 or both?) The muted cornet on top with the Blade Runner washes is very fun.

When the disc ends featuring a chant of sorts (again, freedom piled on repetition), the only possible reaction is to hit play and go through it again.