You could begin recounting the story of Goiânia, Brazil’s Boogarins by reciting the opening line of Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy.” It was all a dream for the Brazilian quartet. Originally a duo of high school kids high on their parent’s old psych records, the pair recorded their own songs at home with the help of a computer; once their tracks reached the Internet, they caused a minor wave and soon they had a hip New York record label (Other Music) offering to put out their music. The resulting album was released in 2013 under the title As Plantas Que Curam, and sent the band playing all over the world. They toured with 90s cult alt rock bands like the Flaming Lips and played festivals such as Lollapalooza Brazil and NRMAL. Life couldn’t be better.
All their hard work has paid off in more ways than usual. Ever since the release of As Plantas, the original duo of Fernando “Dino” Almeida and Benke Ferraz have been joined by a bass player and a drummer, becoming a full-fledged band capable of reproducing their home recordings as well as expanding their sound to include mind-melting improvisations onstage. This is the setting of Manual, recorded during their 2014 tour, mainly at Estudio Circo Perrotti (owned by Jorge Explosivo) in Guijón, Spain. Those sessions were captured on analog tapes in live takes. The band rounded out the recordings with some overdubs in Brazil in between tours, and we now get to hear the results of this new phase for the band.
Although the songs on Manual are mostly live takes, this is hardly the stuff of sweaty live gigs. In fact, there’s a newfound complexity in the songwriting and arrangement departments, executed quite subtly. Instead of big noise explosions, there’s a lot more intricate playing in order to develop webs of sound. The pace is gentle and trippy, and although there’s plenty of guitar riffing, not much of it is in the service of a physical reaction from the listener. Boogarins are still playing with our minds and our emotions rather than our bodies.
As Plantas Que Curam featured serious sonic nods to flower power rock as well as Tropicália artists from their native country without aping anyone in particular. What was remarkable about their music was their ability to borrow the musical language from the era and infuse it with new energy and ideas. On Manual, Boogarins evolve into their own being. That’s not to say they have abandoned psychedelic music; rather, they have grown comfortable in their own skin and have many more sounds to brandish in their songs. There are traces of guitar work from krautrock bands like Can or Faust, as well as a few ideas reminiscent of retro minded psych outfits from Japan such as Ghost, Overhang Party, or Angel’in Heavy Syrup, in addition to a more organic allegiance to their forefathers Veloso, Costa, and Os Mutantes. There’s far more energy and beauty in their compositions without resorting to rocking out.
One aspect they have developed wonderfully is their songwriting chops. It’s helped them make music with great personality and a seal all their own, far more than on their debut album. “Tempo” features a fuzzy riff that drives the song without spiraling into headbanging territory. It lures the listener instead of pummeling them into submission, and then sends them into a vortex of rhythm and melody. Effortless hooks and confidence in their arrangements take the listener on a journey, as with the multipart “Mario De Andrade/Selvagem.”
Their music flows with elegant guitar lines that might seem like they are dueling at times, but after a careful listen, they actually complement each other nicely. When they groove as if they’re turning themselves inside out on “Benzin,” when they add gravitas to their mood in “Cuerdo,” or when they paint a picture with light colors on the evocative “San Lorenzo,” they prove that there’s nobody quite like them right now. Lyrically, the band fine tunes their hallucinatory language with words about social and personal struggle, due in part to the 2014 World Cup, which took place in their home country. The band speaks out against corporations and corrupt politicians, but their choice of words remains dreamlike. It’s like a mental protest against the material world that is perfectly reflected in their music.
It was all a dream and it remains so, thanks not only to their lyrics but also to the gentle and nurturing but adventurous compositions. Boogarins are slated to become one of today’s most accomplished bands. Not only do they build a world through their music, but they also take you by the hand to travel through it. Few artists can create something so completely satisfying and thrilling at their own pace, and Boogarins accomplish this on their second album. It’s still just the beginning.