The son of a samba king
reinvents the bossa nova.

A gently plucked guitar, a sweet and melancholy melody, two sheets of sandpaper rubbed together producing a sly rhythmic effect. Ah, tropicalia. The eccentric late-'60s offshoot of cool bossa nova--Brazilian youth high on John Cage and the Beatles--layers acoustics with finger-blistering psych solos, blown-fuse electronics, and the occasional Mod beat whacked out on bennies.

While obscurists break out in a cold sweat whenever Os Mutantes LPs turn up at the local collector haunt, such a wildly anarchic take on pop music would ordinarily fall on deaf ears. That is, until hepcat megastars like David Byrne and Beck started extolling the virtues of one of modern music's great pleasures. Now, not only are we treated to Tom Ze albums issued on Byrne's Luaka Bop label but, without warning, Moreno Veloso is acid-dropped on us straight from the bikini beaches of Rio.

Moreno, son of samba legend Caetano Veloso, learned a thing or two from his old man about snappy progressions and romantic verse. He also happens to possess an idiosyncratic vision of what song composition comprises, like all good postmodern singer-songwriters. Music Typewriter is to João Gilberto what Pavement is to Creedence Clearwater Revival--a dadaist interpretation, equal parts admiration and deconstruction.

This can make for some jarring juxtapositions. Moreno jumpcuts from "Eu Sou Melhor Que Voce," a lovely traditional bossa in which he fingerpicks a poignant figure while whispering about ego and loneliness, to "Das Partes," all spastic bounce, lyrics having something to do with "insects tilling the soil to eat," and not one but three theremins treated as if they were in the middle of a Jon Spencer climax. And somehow it works--largely for the simple reason that Moreno knows how to work dynamics and shifts in mood to create music that is simultaneously touching and silly.

So, whether you've been diggin' the samba vibe since Oscar Niemeyer completed Brasilia, or you just thought "Tropicalia" was a funny title on Mutations, Moreno will soothe your soul. (DM)


The godfather of trip-hop goes pop,
with decidedly mixed results.

Since the release of Maxinquaye in 1995, Tricky has struggled against fame. Father of the musical genre trip-hop, he found the label constraining, and so spent five years making his beats more awkward, his voice more disturbing, and his fans less than content. But premillennial tension resolves itself in Blowback--instead of pleasing no one, he's decided to please everyone.

The demons are still there, except this time Alanis Morissette is singing backup. Reggae and reverb mix uncertainly with the trancelike grunt of Tricky's voice. The lyrics, so simplistic and haunting on previous albums, have become commercialized to the point of plain embarrassment. Sometimes intros threaten to become Sugar Ray songs, only to be saved by the ghost of Tricky's genius. Recently Tricky was pulled back from the brink of insanity by a miracle diet (carrots yes, Prozac no). Tricky is back. But what has he come back to? Perhaps he's only traded that dark abyss for another, this one filled with MTV dollars and adolescent boys. We'll soon find out. (KF)

Tricky plays Friday, Aug. 3 at B Complex, 320 SE 2nd Ave., 235-4424. 8 pm. $17+ advance.


VITRIOL: I-VII (Neurot Recordings): Ben Christian Green of Godflesh moves to Wales, works his 8-track recorder overtime and comes up with entrancing, elemental Mobius drones, shivery guitar loops and subterranean shudders. Like being trapped in a magnetic field somewhere under the Earth's crust. Fans of Lustmord and his cave-dwelling dark ambient will, um, "dig" it. (JG)

THE RAPTURE: Out of the Races and Onto the Tracks (Sub Pop): A half-dozen beautifully unbalanced jaunts across the broken-glass wastelands previously explored by the likes of the Fall, Wire, Gang of Four, etc. Guitar chords scatter like shrapnel, the bass lurches beneath sickly funk drums, and the vocalist yelps like his saliva glands have suddenly started excreting battery acid. We've been here before, of course. But hell, it ain't a bad place to visit again. Not bad at all. (JG)

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