Mutantes (1969) by Os Mutantes
Shared by Brian
So.. I must admit, I don’t own a record player. I listen to recorded music via my computer, a device or in the car. This leads me to question whether this piece will be disqualified from the “On the Record” blog. On the other hand, if included, these words will be on the record, so hooray for double entendres!
Maybe it’s the sunny, warm weather or the relentless chaos of the world, but recently in my car (often occupied by myself, my wife and our 5 year old son), the most requested music has been Os Mutantes’ sophomore album, Mutantes. We love it because it is catchy, hilariously-absurd and packed with fascinating twists and turns.
It was released in 1969, the same year as Abbey Road, Brazilian Octopus, In A Silent Way, The Age of Aquarius, Space Oddity, Tommy, Liberation Music Orchestra, Hot Rats and more, and there are countless connections that weave through the pieces like cosmic threads of DNA. Was it the zeitgeist of the moment, LSD experimentation, chance, or were the Mutantes at a dinner party with Lennon, Hermeto, Zappa and the others, feasting on the totality of each other’s work? The latter would certainly be in line with the Anthropophagic Manifesto, a major influence of the Tropicália movement of the 1960’s, in Brazil to which Os Mutantes were a part of.
The record opens with “Don Quixote,” a fanfare of horns and drums, as though it were a prelude to Monty Python’s “Flying Circus” (which also debuted in 1969). Before quoting Ringo in dozens of fills, drummer Dinho Leme’s (credited as Sir Ronaldo) tom groove hints at a surdo pattern that one might hear during carnival, however it sounds nothing like a street samba. To my ear, the part also forecasts Tullio De Piscopo’s drum groove on Astor Piazzolla’s “Adiós Nonino,” which would be recorded a few years later in Argentina.
It’s about a minute into the piece, when the slightly out of tune flute, triangle and sultry voices of Rita Lee, Arnaldo Baptista and Sérgio Dias enter, that we get a glimpse of the journey we will be traveling through over the remainder of this record. Abrupt, angular transitions and tempo changes drop us into luscious worlds of where laughter, held breaths and audience cheers are spliced, against squeaky toys, theremin, autoharp, and overlapping falsetto voices, with brief fiddle afterthoughts.
As the second song, “Não Vá Se Perder por Aí” begins, I wonder “is that a goat?” and “why the false start?” This is the #1 hit on the album. The entrance of the voice sounds like a jews harp mixed with a berimbau. When the chorus comes around, I am transported to my basement practice space where my seventeen year old self would explore shuffles, afro-latin grooves (and probably other things) among friends in the shadows of a tinted green lava light. The short solos, upbeat tempo and oddly timed guitar breaks keep things moving in unexpected ways and again I am left wondering, "why is the fiddle solo again so short?"
With heavy hand of a doppler or phaser effects, The third song, “Dia 36” takes us partially underwater to experience a melancholic ballad with arco bass parts that could call various species of blue whales.
Without giving too much away, the rest of the album is packed with psychedelic tropical hits juxtaposed against driving rockers with a hefty dose of musique concrète that will tickle the inner ear like ASMR on steroids. Rogério Duprat’s experimental orchestrations push the line of innovation forward from where Pet Sounds and Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band left off, taking us from ribbon synth surf blues, to avant bossa, pre-punk and post-genre scenarios.
Give it a listen on your next drive to the beach and whoever is in your car will surely say (just like my wife and son do), “play that one again, daddy!”
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