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Domenico Lancellotti's SRAMBA reaches back to the roots of samba whilst completely revamping its blueprint, indoctrinating guitar and percussion-led rhythms with analogue synthesisers, courtesy of album producer Ricardo Dias Gomes.
The majority of SRAMBA was recorded over two months in The Cave - Domenico's home studio in Lisbon, the city both Brazilian ex-pats reside in, where the arrival of a couple of Russian-designed synths purchased by Ricardo influenced the direction of their initial experimentation: "Ricardo had these instruments, modular machines" remembers Domenico, "and I had my guitar, some percussion instruments. On the first day we started making sounds and recording them, and songs started to appear, sambas started to appear."
The son of a renowned samba songwriter, at home Domenico would watch his father play and compose. At parties, the adults would hand his father a tamborim (a small tambourine) and ask him to play along. "I grew up inside samba, it's my roots", he says. "For me, everything is samba, I bring it into whatever style of music I am making".
Domenico and Ricardo instantly saw how the synthesisers were not at odds with the sambas they were playing, instead they had a similar sound to its typical percussion instruments (ganza, repinique, surdo, tarol). What's more, they saw a connection with roots samba, the samba that existed before bossa nova and samba jazz came along. This was rhythmic samba, with grooves that could go on ad infinitum. "It's samba de clave, geometrically structured" says Domenico. "It's ostinato samba", adds Ricardo.
"Diga" is a great example of what their proposal is capable of, as what begins as a glitchy machine whirring into action soon turns into a glorious samba in which the gurgles and scratchy beats coming from the analogue equipment only add to the arrangement. Likewise, on "Tá Brabo" it's an aching melody from one of the synths that gives the guitar rhythm its needed counterpoint, and shows how the duo's greatest accomplishment is not in invention alone, but in creating a great samba album. It's an album that can go from the opening track "Ere" with its reverberant bass thud, mantra-like vocals and staccato rhythms to the string-accompanied "Nada Sera de Outra Maneira", a swooning samba that pays tribute to the Brazilian ensemble Tamba Trio, who along with Tom Zé's Estudando O Samba, Domenico names as the biggest influence on their treatment of samba.
Other important reference points are made clear on "Um Abraço No Faust". One of three instrumentals on the album its title riffs off a JoãoGilberto song, "Um Abraço no Bonfá", but whereas JoãoGilberto was giving a hug (um abraço) to bossa nova guitarist Luiz Bonfá, Domenico and Ricardo are giving theirs to the German avant-gardists Faust. "Quem Samba", with its horn section and dramatic melody give a whiff of Domenico's Italian ancestry, while "Descomunal" is devoid of rhythm whatsoever, guest vocalist Tori singing over a bed of electronic drums, cello and swirling synths, that highlights the duo's unwillingness to stick to a particular formula.
Both Domenico Lancellotti and Ricardo Dias Gomes are revered names within Brazilian music over the past 20 years. As a member of the +2's, with Moreno Veloso and Kassin, Domenico released a trio of albums on Luaka Bop in the early 00s that pioneered a new Rio samba sound with elements of funk and psychedelia. With Veloso and Kassin he would later form Orquestra Imperial, a big band intent on reviving ballroom (gafieira) samba, and that has worked with guest vocalists such as Seu Jorge, Elza Soares and Ed Motta. SRAMBA is his fourth solo album. Multi-instrumentalist Ricardo Dias Gomes first came to notice as a member of Caetano Veloso's band Cê which helped reinvigorate Caetano's career with a sound influenced by British new wave. As well as collaborations with Lucas Santtana, Negro Leo and Thiago Nassif, and work with his own group Do Amor, he has released a series of acclaimed solo albums that reveal a restless music-maker.
SRAMBA is a glorious showcase of the duo's style, uniting Domenico's playful lyrics and rhythmic, samba-rooted songs with with Ricardo's assured accompaniment of unorthodox textures and instrumentations. It may be a new language for samba, machine samba (samba de máquina), but as Domenico says, "samba da máquina is samba".
2. Um Abraço No Faust
5. Tá Brabo
7. Nada Será De Outra Maneira
8. Quem Samba (feat. Marcia)
9. Descomunal (feat. Tori)