Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Beautiful Summer Sounds Of Marcos Valle

It's summer in Pittsburgh.  The snow drifts are gone.  Instead, the pothole-pocked streets are heavy with a haze of humidity.  We don't get much Spring here.  There is no gentle acclamation to sunlight. The cold that permeated and collected in our bones over the course of an 8 month Winter is bleached out in a matter of days.

One thing that helps make the abrupt transition easier is to adjust the soundtrack. We've worn down another copy of Slint's dirgy masterpiece Spiderland, and it's time to shake our atrophied limbs about and feel the vitamin D coursing through our translucent veins again.  It's time to sweat off our extra, insulating pounds with something upbeat and, dare I say it, happy.
If you are looking for the soundtrack to summer, there may not be a more perfect fit than Marcos Valle.  The Rio de Janeiro artist's catalog is full of feet-shuffling rhythms and breezy melodies, and it's infused with an adventurous, experimental spirit, keeping it from being pandering and tame.
Coming up through Brazil's music scene in the mid-1960's as a Bossa Nova performer, Marcos Valle was a respected artist in a style that was beginning to fade.  The political climate in Brazil was volatile, with a newly asserted military dictatorship and widespread poverty, disconnecting Bossa's airy soundtrack to Rio's idyllic beaches from the mood of the people.  By 1968, the Tropicalia movement was born, infusing traditional Brazilian music with Rock n Roll, the more turbulent sound better reflecting the country's tension, and, although Marcos Valle was not a part of the Tropicalia movement directly, he was aware & inspired by it.  For his self-titled 1970 album, Marcos Valle, filled out his session players with the heavy psych-rock band Som Imaginario who embued his still rather traditional sambas with hard-edged flourishes of complexity. The resulting record marries the sweet, dancing mood of the care-free Bossa Novas, carried on the mellifluous melodies of Valle's Portuguese, with the playful, challenging energy of the 60's youth revolution.  Heard in the tasteful touches of fuzzed-out guitar, American R&B choruses, and disembodied piano notes. Over the next 4 albums for Odeon Records, Valle continued to make rich, exciting, soulful music, helped by great musicians including psych band O Terço and the legendary jazz fusion band Azimuth.
When I was first introduced to Marcos Valle by amazing musicians and Brazilian music enthusiasts BusCrates and Nice Rec, it was through MP3s, because his records on the Odeon label were impossible to get here in the United States. They fetched second-hand market prices in the $200-300 range. I even came across a copy of his 1973 'Previsão Do Tempo' album and the disparity between my wallet and the price tag burned the image of its cover into my subconscious want-list forever. The already bold image of Marcos Valle submerged underwater is still there when I close my eyes, but, luckily for all of us, the record and 3 others from the same period in Valle's career have been lovingly reissued by Light In The Attic Records! These pressings are beautiful in gatefold sleeves on thick vinyl with extensive liner notes. From experience, these sorts of reissues will dry-up within a year or two and then command second-hand market prices nearly as steep as the originals.
If you are having a hard time deciding between Marcos Valle (1970), Garra (1971), Vento Sul (1972), and Previsao Do Tempo (1973), I would recommend Garra as it contains some of Valle's most infectious songs.

This article was written by Andrew Burger, a good friend and co-owner of 720 Music in Pittsburgh, Pa, a record store that specializes in hip-hop, funk, soul, jazz, and world music (he's also the owner of probably the best record collection I've ever seen).  Andrew knows more about records than anyone else I know, and when I asked him for some help writing an article on some foreign records, he graciously obliged.  Look forward to some more posts from him in the future, and keep an eye on the labels to see which posts are from him; in the meantime, I suggest you trust him and check out these records.  He was the one who introduced them to me, and they've been among my favorite all year.  Check them out at Light In The Attic Records, and check out 720's Online Store and Discogs Page (and if you find yourself in the Pittsburgh area, make sure to stop in!).  Andrew also owns and operates The Harmony Society, an excellent record label whose catalog is continuing to grow; among others, The Harmony society released, earlier this year, a split 12" record that included Tokyo, Japan's 9DW, who is also responsible for some excellent records on his own Catune label.  Lastly, make sure to keep up with Andrew's record-buying exploits on his own blog, Stupid Scientifical (it's in the links section, as well!).

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