To understand where the richness of Futurismo by Kassin + 2 comes from, take a walk through Rio’s Zona Sul. In the dusty record shops of Copacabana’s crumbling antiques arcades, 60’s MPB classics by Elis Regina and Jorge Ben play on scratchy vinyl. In bohemian Santa Theresa, the psychedelic sounds of Os Mutantes and Tom Zé find their spiritual home. Along the Ipanema beachfront the bossa nova of Tom Jobim and Joao Gilberto remains the perfect reflection of that elegant part of the city. You can hear samba everywhere, from the city centre to the furthest suburbs, and in the hillside slums, the bump and grind of favela funk pumps out a rougher reality.
Futurismo by Kassin + 2 is the new portrait of Rio’s rich musical, cultural and ethnic diversity. The final part in the + 2 trilogy — fellow band members Moreno Veloso and Domenico Lancellotti were the featured names for the first two releases — Futurismo is as Carioca as Havianas, Caiprinhas and the ability to spend all day on the beach without getting any sand on your sarong. “When I make an album, I want it to be able to sit happily inside my record collection,” says Kassin, a Rio native who has been digging for vinyl gold all of his life. Futurismo is like a collection inside a collection. It represents my tastes and my world.”
For the past few years, Kassin has been one of the most exciting names in Brazilian music. From his Monoaural Studio in Gavea he has produced records by singers like Marisa Monte and Bebel Gilberto and made an album from the bleeps of a Gameboy. He has played bass for Caetano Veloso’s live shows and masterminded the Orchestra Imperial project, in which samba classics are given a modern twist by a loose and ever-expanding live band. And given his status as a leader of Brazil’s musical avant-garde, the biggest surprise of Futurismo is its bossa-rooted accessibility. “I have been making strange and experimental music,” says Kassin. “This time I wanted to make an album that is clean, melodic and calm.” John McEntire (Tortoise) and Sean O’Hagan (High Llamas) also contributed to the album with additional production and vocals on the tracks “Ya Ya Ya,” “Lakeline” and “Back Bow.”
The songs on Futurismo are melodic gems. They were written at different periods in Kassin’s life and recorded quickly, mostly on acoustic instruments with electronic flourishes added later. “I am fast,” he says of the song writing and recording process. “I have an idea and I work out how to make that idea a reality. Because I do too much and never have as much time as I would like, I have to work fast.”
“Seu Lugar,” a duet with funky bossa nova legend Joao Donato, has the ease of a sea breeze. “Mensagem” is a beautiful slice of sunshine pop with some unsuitably melancholic lyrics. “Ya Ya Ya” is a collision of Brazilian harmony and squealing space-age freakout reminiscent of the classics from the Tropicalia era. “Pra Lembrar” begins with an orchestral blast before settling into a plaintive bossa nova that is evocative of the beauty, humor and sadness, forever entwined, at the heart of Rio life.
Alongside Music Typewriter by Moreno + 2 (2001) and Sincerely Hot by Domenico + 2 (2004), Futurismo presents a body of work by a group that is as inspired by adventure as it is by the grace of Brazil’s musical traditions. Kassin was 17 when he met childhood friends Moreno Veloso and Domenico Lancellotti through Pedro Sa, a mutual friend and fellow musician. In 1999, after performing a concert together and bonding over a shared inspiration from the American/Brazilian experimental musician Arto Lindsay, the trio rented a house in Petropolis on the outskirts of Rio and set up a studio. The + 2 band came from those early sessions.
“We work like a normal band,” says Kassin. “The only difference is that for each person we try to work out what fits best. Domenico is a drummer so he’s raucous, he’s energetic, and the songs we wrote together for his album reflect that. Moreno has a thin, precise voice and he sings beautifully. I wanted to make this album as a guitar player and composer as I don’t feel like a singer yet. But hopefully with this album, I have found my voice.”
Kassin on a few of Futurismo’s highlights:
Futurismo: “People are too in thrall of the modern age, with the result that when something is totally modern it already sounds out of date. This is a song about clones and spaceships and computers; everything associated with the future.”
Ponto Final: “The song has a classical theme. The singer says, ‘I don’t want you. It’s over.’ At the same time he’s singing about how he wants to be smarter, and he wants to get in shape, and he wants to have a new life. It’s about wanting what you haven’t got.”
Mensagem: “My idea with this song was to have sad lyrics to a happy tune. It’s about waking up and thinking that everything looks worse than it did before.”
Quando Nara Ri: “This is a song about my daughter. Her name is Nara and she is half-Japanese, and she seems to be on Japanese time. This means that in Rio she sleeps the whole day and keeps us awake the whole night.”
released May 13, 2008
Sublime Brazilian Trippycalia from top producer Kassin with:
Moreno Veloso (son of Caetano Veloso)
Sean O'Hagan (High Llamas)
John McEntire (Tortoise)