13.11.04

wired like a circuitboard

too much coffee!
too much drama!
too much everything!

Go read Martin Skidmore's awesome piece about Al Green and soul music on Freaky Trigger, like, NOW.

Okay, continuing with my autobiography, which I would call "Have You Seen Her?" after my third favorite song:


Daniela Mercury, O Canta da Cidade (1992)

MY BRASILIAN OBSESSION, EXPLAINED, KINDA

It all started with Marcelo, our exchange student, Canby Union High School, fall of 1982. I was a junior, expected to start on defense at cornerback and be second-team halfback for a rising AAA power, until my blown-out knee got re-blown-out during daily doubles. (Daily doubles, for those who don't know, are the grueling two-a-day practices held in hot August sun, starting at ungodly hours before school has even begun, break for lunch, come back in afternoon. That's just the mandatory practices. If you're good at all, you are "expected" ((a.k.a. "required")) to come back and do evening pads-less route-running, etc. Oregon late-summer weather is dry but hot as the devil's IPod.) So there wasn't much I could do except hold blocking pads, rehab my stretched-out ligaments by lifting weights, wear my jersey on game days, and practice with Marcelo.

Marcelo was a big and slightly-fat guy who should have gone out for our school's (weak) soccer team. Actually, so should I have. But he wanted the whole USA school experience, so he played defensive tackle during defense practice and then practiced field goals and extra points during offense practice. During this latter, I was dispatched to help him out, because our coach decided that I was pretty much useless and he figured that M. could maybe come in handy, considering he could boot the hell out of the ball. Accuracy was more difficult. We'd go out and kick the ball for an hour every day, and I would drill him about Brasil and its customs and practices, etc., while he did the same with me.

I really should have been a better friend to Marcelo, welcomed him into my circle of friends, all that...but I didn't. Another thing I feel guilty about. But that hour a day was cool, and we were associates of a sort. After a while, Marcelo got better at field goal kicking, and my knee got better, and our team got really good; I ended up having to do more active duty, and Marcelo challenged Tom 0'D3ll for the kicker spot and won. Which would have meant that he got to actually be the kicker, had our coach not reneged on the whole deal right before gametime. M. was outraged, as were several of us--0'D3ll was a good guy but not that great a kicker. M. was also mad because of the way he was treated by a lot of the other guys: shitty. His awesome tirade during practice one day is still legend among us that remember: "WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM ME? I WORK SO HARD AND YOU ALL BE SO MEAN TO ME! I COME OUT FOR TEAM, I HAVE DONE EVERYTHING!"

At the end of the year, Marcelo gave me a cassette tape: "Lambateria Tropical 2." It had a tinny sound and some light-sounding music. I have sadly lost it. But I was interested, if not exactly hooked.

So then I ended up living with a woman who had been an exchange student to Sao Paulo in high school, who was still in touch with her host sister (who had also come up and lived with her). Her friend, Adriana, came to visit, and we spent many minutes talking about Brasilian music. (She and her boyfriend's favorite thing about visiting us in New York: the movie "Uncle Buck." Every time we saw a beater car chugging around the Upper West Side, they'd yell "Uncle Buck car!") About a month after they left, I received a package containing this Daniela Mercury album.

It's not the greatest thing I've ever heard: too many washed-out synths, a couple of overly facile dancey tracks. The axe sound (there should be a diacritical mark over the e there, but I don't know how to do that on blogger) is bouncy and light-sounding, but has evolved since then, and is now capable of sounding like rock or pop or forro or samba or all of the above. And no one would mistake her for a perfect vocalist. But there is something authentic and "hey young world" about it, and I figured that if Adriana swore by it then it was worth it. Still, though, I had a hard time fully UNDERSTANDING it, if you know what I mean.

And then, one night, I understood that I would never fully understand it. There is no way. It's another culture, another country, another world really. Once I accepted that, once I let go of UNDERSTANDING and welcomed unknowability, Daniela Mercury became a lot more of a real listening experience. And one hell of a lot more fun.

Her best record yet is this year's Carnaval Eletronico, in which she uses some of Sao Paulo's top DJs and electronic artists to turn axe and samba songs into full-on house and two-step anthems. (Yeah, there are a couple of bossa nova things here, but only a couple, and they're beefed up with techno touches.) It's worldtronica, but with teeth. It slipped out of my top ten briefly but then I found the CD and listened to it this morning and WOW IT IS AWESOME. I wrote about one of the tracks on The Freelance Mentalists earlier this year. The whole album is great, and inspiring, and novo with a touch of retro, and not-quite-smooth, and dance-yr-ass-off-worthy.

Dri has sent a couple more CDs, including the fascinating Marina Lima's O Chamado, and has recommended people like Lenine to me. But it all started with Daniela.

But it really all started with Marcelo.

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