Brazilian veterans deliver a good balance between reflective and more festive moods.
Jon Lusk 2011
Still comprised of the original three members who started the group in 1972, Azymuth are approaching the end of their fourth decade together in a style all their own. Aurora continues the productive association they’ve had since the mid 1990s with London-based Brazilophile label Far Out, whose press release generously refers to them as a "three piece orchestra".
Actually, they’re joined by just three guest vocalists and three instrumentalists this time around, with the most noticeable difference in the arrangements being the lack of strings and sax/flutes that featured on their last album, 2008’s Butterfly. According to the succinct sleeve notes, Aurora revisits the penchant for disco which was typical of their work in the 1980s, but it also seems to place more emphasis on their samba roots, aided in no small part by the boom and slap of guest percussionist Trambique on repique de anel, one of the key drums used in the style. Plus, of course, the occasional interjection of cuica.
This is one of those rare albums that’s so consistently engaging and well sequenced that it seems almost unfair to pick highlights. But mention should be made of In My Treehouse, which is reprised with two spectral preludes at the end. Both this track and É Mulher are powered by the guilty pleasures of the disco beat and decorated with starburst showers of (ironic?) synth drums. Isso É Partido Alto is a relaxed exposition of the well-known partido alto rhythm of samba, with Jose Roberto Bertrami taking a starring role on his shimmering Rhodes and vocoder-treated incantation of the title – a typical example of Azymuth’s virtually instrumental approach to the idea of lyrics.
Sabrina Malheiros adds her carefree and similarly minimal vocal to Meu Mengo, with her dad Alex busy on funky bass and bossa-flavoured acoustic guitar. Though this is very much his track, in all cases, the musicians mesh together like the parts of a well-oiled machine.
Aurora dishes out one slinky, memorable groove after another. It’s a lovely record, with a good balance between reflective and more festive moods, and the cannily timed release date makes it a likely contender for a summer soundtrack of choice.