World/rock

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Tony Hil­lier

A Mul­her do Fim do Mundo Elza Soares Mais Um Dis­cos/Planet The Rio Olympic Games may be on the hori­zon, but these are far from golden days for Brazil. In­deed, lat­est news re­ports sug­gest that South Amer­ica’s largest coun­try is in po­lit­i­cal and so­cial tur­moil.

An im­prob­a­ble new al­bum that pairs a vet­eran Rio de Janeiro diva with a mav­er­ick crew of ex­per­i­men­tal Sao Paulo play­ers re­flects the coun­try’s present ills, ad­dress­ing some of the burn­ing is­sues of the day, in­clud­ing cor­rup­tion, racism, drug ad­dic­tion and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, with the in­her­ent vi­tal­ity of Brazil­ian rhythm and the in­ten­sity of punk rock.

As an artist who cham­pi­ons Brazil’s down­trod­den and cries out against racial, gen­der and sex­ual dis­crim­i­na­tion, Elza Soares is an ap­pro­pri­ate con­duit for protest song. Adding street cred, this sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian queen of samba has walked on the wild side, boast­ing a back­story that reads like a soap opera script.

Born in a favela and co­erced into an abu­sive mar­riage while still a child, she was wid­owed with three chil­dren by 21 and ex­pelled by the mil­i­tary junta for hav­ing an ex­tra­mar­i­tal af­fair with leg­endary Brazil­ian foot­baller Gar­rin­cha. The vi­cis­si­tudes of Soares’s roller-coaster life are en­cap­su­lated in the ex­tra­or­di­nary vo­cal range that gives A Mul­her do Fim do Mundo / The Wo­man at the End of the World its po­tency.

Al­though the singing is sooth­ing and sen­si­tive, sup­ported by strings in penul­ti­mate song Solto, and plain­tive when ren­dered a cap­pella on the open­ing and clos­ing pieces Co­ra­cao do Mar and Comigo, the sound else­where on her 34th al­bum is the an­tithe­sis of Copacabana bossa nova croon chic.

The pre­dom­i­nant dis­po­si­tion of a set ex­clu­sively com­posed for the singer in the style of so-called samba sujo (dirty samba) is tense and ca­cophonous, with Soares scream­ing, gur­gling and spit­ting out lyrics over screech­ing horns in free-jazz mode, grungy rock gui­tar, sheets of white noise and a bat­tery of Brazil­ian per­cus­sion.

The ti­tle track trans­fixes, as sweet strings, cavaquinho and mild beats give way to angsty car­ni­va­lesque groove and blood­cur­dling af­fir­ma­tions of in­de­struc­tibil­ity from Soares. A punc­tu­ated ac­count of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence ( Maria da Vila Matilde) is equally deadly, with the singer hiss­ing a stream of an­gry words to the back­drop of a rum­bling elec­tronic wash, an­gu­lar gui­tar, edgy drum­ming and ine­bri­ated trom­bone.

The as­trin­gent Benedita re­lates the demise of a crack-ad­dicted trans­ves­tite — a “wounded beast” who “keeps a bullet be­tween her breasts”. An­other ur­gent afrop­unk samba, Pra Fuder, por­trays the fem­i­nist li­bido in its more ex­treme form over jazzy horn stabs and dis­torted slabs of elec­tric gui­tar. Luz Ver­melha speaks of “a coun­try abused for cen­turies” while in­ter­lock­ing elec­tric bass and gui­tar riffs and re­peated lead lines weave men­ac­ingly in and out. Wild fid­dling and clat­ter­ing drums dis­com­bob­u­late be­hind a bluesy vo­cal in Canal. Guest band Bix­iga 70 brings an afrobeat vibe to Firmeza be­fore it too soars into avant-garde ter­ri­tory.

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