There are eight Brazilian bands and three solo artists performing at South by Southwest 2016. Here’s an annotated guide to the acts you really oughta get acquainted with — whether or not you’re there.
Their name stands for “noise per millimeter,” they’re from the southern city of Curitiba, and they’re just about the best the Brazilian post-rock scene has to offer. Their latest, Rasura (2014) is also their greatest. While the band can be straightforward when it feels like it (as in the brief, charging “Cromaqui”), complex textures and compositions are their stock-in-trade; each of its eight instrumental tracks is a trip in its own right, but Rasura was organically conceived, culminating in an epic 16-minute suite in which Slint meets Ennio Morricone.
He’s only seen wearing geometric masks, so nobody really know who the 23-year-old who goes by DESAMPA (a portmanteau of two Portuguese words meaning “from São Paulo”) is. His alternative R&B stylings may bring to mind names like The Weeknd, but his most recent /// EP, recorded in New York, sees him incorporating more electronica and even trap into his sound. He sings in perfect English, and with proper backing he could be an international star.
Far from Alaska
Their name is appropriate — they’re from the sun-drenched northeastern state of Rio Grande do Norte, which has somehow turned into a breeding ground for great indie groups in recent years. They gained instant fame when Garbage’s Shirley Mason raved about them on Facebook after seeing them perform in São Paulo in 2012;
no doubt Mason saw a bit of herself in frontwoman Emily Barreto, who oozes attitude. Far from Alaska’s 2014 debut, modeHuman, is arty stoner rock of fine vintage; like many hard-edged Brazilian bands, they’re strictly anglophone, and their English is pretty convincing.
This experimental supergroup includes members of Brazilian alt bands such as Constantina and Graveola e o Lixo Polifônico; they’re based in Belo Horizonte, but their 2013 debut, Registro, featured 32 musicians from as far as Argentina and Chile. They jump back and forth between Portuguese and English, and their sound is equally eclectic, incorporating influences ranging from Caetano Veloso to the Elephant 6 and instruments including theremin and a pencil sharpener. The lyrics to “Because I Know” come from the T.S. Elliott poem Ash Wednesday, and the musical accompaniment sounds like Los Hermanos playing tablas.
Performing at SXSW is a homecoming of sorts for this Rio de Janeiro musician who studied at the University of Texas at Austin and recorded his only album with fellow students while living at a co-op named Pearl in 2013. Tinged with youthful longing and deftly combining Brazilian and American folk music, Pearl is a gem alright.
Bridging the gap between lo-fi and traditional Brazilian music, northeastern singer-songwriter Jota Erre is a solid representative of the new MPB — the artists that are adapting samba, bossa nova and other old school sounds to the 21st century. Sexy but not corny, Jota Erre is a good introduction to Brazilian music for those who don’t know the first things about it.