April 28, 2011

BETWEEN - Einstieg (1971) + And the Waters Opened (1973)

Between formed in Munich around two classically trained musicians—minimalist maestro Peter Michael Hamel and Popul Voh oboist/inventor Robert Eliscu—and Roberto C. Détrée, an Argentine bossa nova guitarist. Taking in a future superflautist and two African-American jazz percussionists, Between forged from their diverse musical backgrounds a strange beast. Relying on classical Western instruments, they created avant-garde improvisational music with a wholly Eastern sensibility. They used distorted piano and organ instead of synthesizers and Eliscu's robotic single-stringed motocello to make acoustic kosmische hum. These first two albums have grown on me quite a bit over the years, particularly And the Waters Opened. I also recommend Dharana (1974), a worthy follow-up, if a bit too soaring and majestic at times for my taste.

April 23, 2011

April 16, 2011

The Quickening Power of Holy Ghost People

Filmed in Scrabble Creek, West Virginia, Holy Ghost People (1967) joins the Holiness church for worship. Director Peter Adair's ethnographic vérité style creates an intimate portrait of true faith. The congregation sings, dances, speaks in tongues, drinks strychnine, and handles poisonous serpents. The transcendental atmosphere is cut with tension, more so when I tell you someone gets bitten.

Get the Ghost:  watch or download the full documentary.

April 9, 2011

SECOS & MOLHADOS - Secos & Molhados (1973) + Secos & Molhados II (1974)

Originally the brainchild of João Ricardo, Secos & Molhados took definitive form in August 1972 with the addition of the bisexually charismatic countertenor, Ney Matogrosso. Ricardo wrote many of the songs on the group's first album when he was still a teenager. By the time he was joined by Gerson Conrad, who shared songwriting duties, Ricardo had pretty much formed the concept—face paint, a combination of Portugese vira, tropicália, schmaltz, and glam rock, and a male singer with a very high-pitched voice. After a few less successful lineups, Ricardo met Matogrosso through a mutual friend, Luli (of future Luli e Lucinha fame). After a few months of intensive practice, they played their first show in December and signed to Continental Records almost immediately. They were an overnight success, breaking records within the first couple of months and eventually selling over a million copies.

Ever since I first learned of Secos & Molhados from WFMU's blog post in 2005, I've been fascinated with the group's enormous success there. For one thing, despite Brazil's well-known record of sexual tolerance and a thriving gay community, they also have the highest rates of violence against homosexuals anywhere in the world, with few murder cases ever being solved. Furthermore, Secos e Molhados came on the scene when the right-wing military junta still kidnapped and tortured subversives. If their Indo-Hippie pansexual thing wasn't wild enough, instead of lyrics they quoted poems from the likes of Fernando Pessoa, Julio Cortazar, Oswald De Andrade, and João Apolinário (Ricardo's father). At any rate, Secos & Molhados were a short-lived affair, breaking up less than two years after they formed. They released a second eponymous record (underrated in my opinion though admittedly spotty) and then they broke up shortly after over some money shit. Matogrosso went on to a successful solo career, but hung onto the persona well into the MPB years. He eventually lost the face paint after reinventing himself as a singer of standards in 1986. Ricardo did some fairly interesting solo work but returned to claim the Secos & Molhados name in the late 70s and 80s with little success and no original members.

April 3, 2011