Three of Brazil’s brightest rising stars have joined forces to create an extraordinarily beautiful, alluring blend of soul, trip-hop, and bossa nova, a sure sign of the continued creative vitality of their native land.
Vocalist Marisa Monte, samba-funk pioneer Carlinhos Brown, and pop trickster Arnaldo Antunes are leaders of the neo-tropicalia scene, which pays homage to the groovy genre-bending of 1960s stars such as Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso. All three have been refining this rich musical vocabulary on a series of solo records, each with sleek, densely layered production that raises the bar for Brazilian and, indeed, global pop music. Although they frequently contribute to each other’s albums, Tribalistas marks the first official outing of this innovative supergroup, and is an unqualified chill-room triumph. Languid melodies float effortlessly through elaborate rhythmic forests, impossible percussive cross-patterns that are typical of Brazilian samba’s deep African heritage. Monte, who produced this album for her own independent Phonomotor label, has a sweet, silken voice, which hints indirectly at the rough, purring growl that is Antunes’ trademark sound. Brown stands midway between the two, mainly providing the rhythms, while throwing in sexy harmonies that jell the trio’s sound. The soft-edged arrangements are sweeping and playfully creative, with crisp acoustic guitars, drifting electronic washes, and even a toy piano or two. Fans of recent work by Arto Lindsay or Caetano’s son, Moreno Veloso, will find kindred spirits here, as well as a gorgeous, super-mellow album that stands up to repeated spins. Highly recommended.