The Brazilian electronica scene has been on fire throughout the decade, and 2015 was no exception. Much of the best material consists of EPs, singles and remixes, and absorbing all of it requires listeners to do a lot of digging on platforms such as SoundCloud and MixCloud.
Some artists, groups and DJs did release top-notch, organically conceived mixtapes and full-length albums in 2015 that either mixed Brazilian rhythms with electronica or simply embraced international trends such as French house and vaporwave, making absolutely no effort to “sound” Brazilian; here are the best ones I came across with.
Jaloo – #1
After making his name with technobrega remixes of tracks by Beyonce, Grimes and other divas, Jaloo partnered with veteran producer Carlos Eduardo Miranda (Raimundos, O Rappa) for his debut album. The result manages to be the best technobrega album since Gaby Amarantos’ groundbreaking Treme, while simultaneously transcending the genre. Bringing capoeira (“A Cidade”) and tribal beats (“Fluxo”) into the realm of electronica, Jaloo deftly combines pure pop and experimentation, maintaining a clear identity even as he tips his hat to myriad influences – his cover of Amarantos’ “Chuva” references the original as much as it does The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” but he still owns it in the end.
Frevotron – Frevotron
Internationally recognized DJ Dolores teamed up with Maestro Spok of Spokfrevo Orchestra (which also wowed U.S. audiences during a 2015 summer tour) and multi-instrumentalist Yuri Queiroga, who happens to be Spok’s son, for this terrific side project that didn’t get the attention it deserved. Joined by guests such as manguebeat veterans Jorge du Peixe and Otto, rapper Lira and French chanteuse Marion Lemonnier, they came up with an unstoppable mix of electronica and northeastern Brazilian rhythms.
Brazilian Disco Club Compilation – Vol.3
Brazilian Disco Club is a São Paulo-based DJ collective dedicated to spreading the love of French touch. They celebrated their third anniversary by releasing this compilation featuring tracks by the collective’s six DJs (Rafael Hysper, Club Soda, Arcade Fighters, Palinoia, Real Deal and Kamei) and notable Brazilian guests such as SeixlacK, Nascii and DeltaFoxx, plus a collaboration between Brazilian producer Leadhead and France’s Play’Til. With 19 tracks and a running time of 90 minutes, this may be more 4/4 beats than most mortals can handle, but for connoisseurs of the stuff it’s an embarrassment of riches.
NU – NU
Film/theater composer Edson Secco and classically trained singer and musicologist Ligiana Costa have been working together as NU (short for Naked Universe) since 2014. Their atmospheric self-titled debut tends toward ambient techno, its multilingual (Portuguese/English/French) lyrics often addressing ecological and social themes. Their cover of Britney Spear’s “Toxic” sounds more like Kate Bush, but the real showstopper is the closer “MusicaBomba,” a global breakbeat protest featuring Ferguson rapper Tef Poe.
Duo Finlândia – Mundo Rural
Argentina’s Mauricio Candussi (accordion and keyboards) and Brazil’s Rapha Evangelista (viola) are Duo Finlândia. Mundo Rural combines folk and erudite music from both countries (baião, Candomblé, malambo, milonga, campera, bossa nova) with electronica, bringing traditional South American rhythms into the 21st century in a collection of 11 tracks that can be joyous or melancholic but are never less than spellbinding.
FF – Fim da Infância Pt. 1
File under vaporwave: Producer Formafluida described this mixtape as a reconstruction of fragments of the sounds he loved in the 90s and 00s. Its 23 vignettes are over in under half an hour, but they’re so irresistible you’ll probably keep it on repeat for a while.
Brasilwave – Waves of Brazil
Speaking of vaporwave, this is the most radical experiment in the genre to have come out of Brazil: snippets from oodles of recent baile funk tracks, cheesy hits from decades past, sitcoms and talk shows, all chopped and screwed to oblivion. I hear it as a commentary on the rampant vulgarity in the baile funk scene and Brazilian popular culture in general; if you’re not fluent in Portuguese that subtext will be lost on you, but language aside this is definitely not for everyone.
Lenna Bahule – Nômade
Another multilingual album that uses electronic beats to bridge the gap between the music of two nations – in this case Brazil and Mozambique, the homeland of Lena Bahule, who’s been based in São Paulo since 2012 and crowdfunded this charming debut album.
Subjects for further research
Here are some albums that got my attention but ultimately didn’t strike me as essential:
Update (1/30/15): Reader Mad Moog recommended via Twitter an album that would have made this list if I had been aware of it (Eduardo Aguillar – Plano Sequência) — which only goes to prove my earlier point about what an impossible task it is to keep up with the deluge of interesting Brazilian electronica being self-released on the Web.