Review Cabruêra – Nordeste Oculto

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Nordeste Oculto is the fifth album from Paraíba’s Cabruêra, and forms part of a special release mapping the North-East of Brazil which also includes texts written by musician/poet Alberto Marsicano and a book of band member Arthur Pessoa’s photography entitled Nordeste Desvelado. The project is particular interested in the spiritual side of Brazil’s Northeastern culture, something that’s captured beautifully on the album.

The title track is drenched in a hypnotic sitar groove, with a funky wah-wah guitar chomping away in the background and percussion that veers betwewn congas and what sounds suspiciously like someone hitting a cardboard box. If Nação Zumbi were ever to embark on a mystical journey this is what it would sound like, for Cabruêra have that same rhythmic force, shown perhaps at it’s best on the funky Afrobeat opener “Jurema.”

Arthur Pessoa takes the lead vocals on the album, switching between a deep, raspy holler on the more folkloric songs that recalls Maciel Salu, and a plainer rock-influenced tone, coming to the fore on the slow-burning “Beira Mar”, a song that shows once more the versatility of the band; this time they head into atmospheric territory with seething guitar chords and the occasional accordion or organ melody building the song to it’s conclusion, and which will undoubtedly lead people to make comparisons with Lula Cortês and Zé Ramalho’s classic Paêbirú album.

This predilection to try new things and change styles continues throughout the album; “Padre Cicero” even has an element of Jorge Ben in it’s funky riff though the following call-and-response between a shiny 80s synth and horn section take the song somewhere else entirely; “Filhos do Vento” brings back the sitar, albeit sparingly as drums and an insistent funky organ take the lead on the rhythm.

There are a number of clear influences on Cabruêra, starting with the African and candomblé rhythms that they have inaugurated into their music, moving onto the folk music of Northeastern Brazil which we’ve heard recently in the releases of Rodrigo Caçapa and Alessandra Leão, but there’s also a hybridisation with rock and psychedelia that often brings to mind names like Lula Cortês and Nação Zumbi. The amazing thing about Nordeste Oculto is that it covers these styles so proficiently and with such gusto. It is clear that this is music which the band are more than familiar with, yet they continually take risks with it, adding sitars or wah-wah guitar, synths or odd percussion, yet it always sounds great, with so much vigour that it’s impossible to ignore.

In the accompanying texts Marsicano talks of Brazil’s North-East being a “magnetic vortex, [a] chakra land where various magical traditions intertwine” and this is also something that comes across keenly on this release, with the fusion of Brazilian and Eastern influences clear through influences such as the sitar, but also through the vocals, with the last track a case in point; guest and fellow Paraíbano Chico César takes the lead for this one, adding an intense vocal (influenced by Indian classical music) full of indiscernible syllables, whoops and cries to “Aboio Indiano”. It’s the perfect end to this album which manages to groove and mystify in equal measures, taking you on a journey through Northeastern Brazil full of surprises and ingenuity.

You can download Nordeste Oculto for free from overmundo.com.br/banco/nordeste-oculto-cabruera

You can find out more about Cabruêra at cabruera.com.br


Image courtesy of Casa Fora do Eixo Minas

Here’s a couple of videos showing Cabruêra during their recent tour of Nordeste Oculto in Brazil:

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