Forro in the Dark Light a Candle Review

Released 2009.  

BBC Review

The closest translation of forró is ‘party’, so the only thing to do is dance.

Andrew Purcell 2009

Although much less famous internationally than samba, forró is one of Brazil’s most popular musical genres. It originates in the north east, and it’s all about dancing – preferably in couples, but also in a crowd.

Forro in the Dark are a band of Brazilians, based in New York, updating the traditional music of their homeland for the 21st century. Their version has the same rhythms, the same familiar sound of the triangle driving the beat along, but it’s also faster and more urgent, having sped up on its journey from the beach to Manhattan’s streets.

Percussionist Mauro Refosco, who founded the group, recently showed up in Thom Yorke’s new ensemble, alongside Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea in the rhythm section. He’s also a long-term member of David Byrne’s tour band, a favour repaid by the former Talking Head on Forro in the Dark’s last album, when he sang lead vocals on I Wish.

This time around, Brazilian Girls vocalist Sabina Sciubba, from the same East Village scene, is the star guest. She delivers a typically breathy, sexy turn on Silence is Golden, sounding like a modern-day Dietrich with a nasty hangover.

After that, it’s back into an accelerated forró, with the pífano flute taking a leading role, clattering drums and rapid-fire Portuguese lyrics tripping over themselves. All the music was recorded live, with minimal overdubs, and it shows in the infectious energy of tracks like Bandinha and Forro de Dois Amigos.

The closest literal translation of forró is ‘party’, so the only sensible thing to do is dance, even if you feel like a gringo. Drink two caipirinhas and your hips will start moving. More to the point, you won’t care what anyone else thinks.

Just when it threatens to get a little samey, along comes singer-songwriter Jesse Harris to close the album, on the trippy, Primal Scream-esque Just Like Every Other Night. “My poor head hurts so bad… but we’ll do it all again,” he sings. With a soundtrack this uplifting, it’s hard to argue.

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