La Rumba Computer
umba is originally an African rhythm, but Cubans made it famous. Similarly, Brazil’s own slave music mutated after it came here into samba and other cadences like maracatu and mangue. As such, it shouldn’t be all that much of a surprise to hear how producer Marcelo de Jesús—aka Nego Moçambique—has managed to imbue his second release with the diaspora of Africa, be it Nigerean Afrobeat, Afrika Baambata’s “Planet Rock,” legendary Brazilian slave rebel Zumbi, or Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters. He’s just taking what’s been handed to him and refashioning it into exciting new forms.
Nego Moçambique’s first release in 2003 was a more minimal affair, a non-stop funky layering of loops and samples over skipping house beats. It had an infectious quality and the inventive use of a Gilberto Gil sample on “Gil Para B-Boys” rightfully garnered the CD some attention, leading to festival appearances at both Mutek and Sonar. And now here we are, four years on with the follow-up, La Rumba Computer being the upshot of the continuous honing and tweaking of his live set from the last few years.
One apparent reason for the long interval between releases? The packaging. Seriously. The CD comes in an elaborately designed oversized box, which when opened presents what seems to be a random collection of fluorescent plastic tubes—a mini-rave in a box. All this extravagance must be costing São Paulo label Segundo Mundo a small fortune in production and distribution, nonetheless, they should also be lauded for their commitment to releasing the new wave of electronic artists coming from Brazil, artists such as electrobreaks maven DJ Vidal, funky housers Jamanta Crew, and electro duo No Porn.
Even though these artists are very much part of a new wave, however, they all look back to previous forms for inspiration. Nego, for instance, builds on the house and breaks of his debut and is now taking on the ‘70s and jazz funk sounds of his heroes: Eumir Deodato, Herbie Hancock, Tim Maia, Parliament/Funkadelic, Carl Craig. This is no urban pose; from these influences he has crafted a crisp contemporary robotic Afro-funk.
Despite this, Nego can’t let go completely of the brittle plangent electro breakbeats that carry his tracks, they pop up more often than not, undergirded by plump basslines taken directly from Bernard Edwards’ book of disco licks.
Elsewhere, the African chanting on the title track immediately evokes rumba. (Mixed with the album’s potpourri of English, Portuguese, and Spanish, it help further engenders a sense of Esperanto-esque misplacement.) And Nego makes an attempt at blending highlife with house in the closer, “Afrikan,” in which the spirit of Fela is raised, farfisa organ meandering included.
The only real issue? Whereas Nego’s debut effort was largely vocal free, here he seems to be straining his newly found vocal cords. I suspect this is because love has found a way—there are many odes to an unnamed fancy. Despite how bad it gets sometimes, Nego does have fun with it: in “Sex Bomb” he sleazily asks us if we want to try “this super Brazilian lover.”
La Rumba Computer could be viewed as an imaginary soundtrack to an unmade break dance movie, its infusion of breaks, funk, and fun demonstrate just what a talented producer this young man from Brasilia is.
Reviewed by: Andy Cumming
Reviewed on: 2007-08-24