I’ve written previously about Noah Lennox’s way with clockwork rhythms that sit behind assorted musical mischief. On his latest album as Panda Bear, Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper, the rhythms are more indebted to psych rock, but here and there (as on the nonsensical anthem “Boys Latin”) the older, dubbier affectations slip in – and on these songs, the chaos unfurling above is all the more effective for it.
Lennox lives in Portugal, a country which gave its improbable language to Brazil, the country of carnivals and irresistible samba rhythms. Now, a pair of Italians operating under the moniker of Ninos Du Brasil have dislocated those rhythms and have forced them onto a collision-course with minimal techno. Factory Floor meets rainforest floor, if you will. Or, if you’re listening to “Sombra da Lua” and are of a certain British vintage, it sounds a bit like the BBC News theme-tune, in the midst of a nervous breakdown.
Carnival is about losing your inhibitions, unclenching, riding with your instincts. The music of Ninos Du Brasil is calculating, interlocking, and still deeply spiritual. From time to time, as on “Sepultura”, the relentless percussion is interrupted by samples of crowds (a link back to Panda Bear, if you recall the triumphant “Benfica”). It’s hard to know what’s organic and what’s artificial; where the synthetic ends and the syncretic begins. The title-track of their quasi-EP for Hospital records, Novos Mistérios, begins in a swampy concoction of steel drums and Quaaludes, before a trickling of hi-hat adumbrates the entrance of a more classically techno passage. I’m reminded of the feeling injected into me upon hearing those first Battles releases.
El Niño literally means “the child”. Perhaps that refers to Christ (since this destructive warm phase typically surfaces around Christmas). Or perhaps it’s a reference to the destructive nature of children. They are wild and untamed, enigmatic and inchoate, and yet they inspire us with love. With the music of Ninos Du Brasil, the carnival never sounded so claustrophobic, and yet so affecting.