he city of Belo Horizonte and the state of Minas Gerais have always been a rich source of new music in Brazil; in the 70s there was Milton Nascimento and the Clube de Esquina. The 80s produced post-punkers Sexo Explícito and Divergência Socialista as well as one of Brazil’s best known exports: Sepultura, one of metal’s more open-minded exponents, while in the 90s festivals such as Eletronika showcased new electronic and out-rock acts with a heavy focus on the local.

pexbaA, Belo Horizonte’s latest export, formed from the ashes of Holocausto, a heavy metal band, and Escola Mineira de Disfunção and, frankly, there seems to be little else quite like them around.

Listening to this, their second album, one has to say that you could only file this under Difficult And Occasionally Disturbing Rock. PexbaA’s more recognizable influences stem from a long line of avant-rockers including Pere Ubu, Captain Beefheart, Henry Cow, and Thinking fellers Union Local 282. However, they also follow a Brazilian tradition of dadaist pranksters that includes Tom Zé, Arrigo Barnabé, and Cidadão Instigado. Edgy, but accessible artists that weren’t and aren’t afraid to wander off the accepted map of popular music and enter into new territories.

It all starts with the packaging. Nowadays, with the ease of downloading and copying, a CD has to become more of an item, otherwise why buy it? The effort made here indicates a deeply thought out work of art and appeals to the collector mentality. The strikingly impressive card sleeve opens up into a 14-page glossy booklet with each page a painting depicting quasi-biblical scenes and childish scrawls of nightmarish masks.

Musically the tracks are built round themes of playfulness and improvisation and the album has a running theme of nonsense language-words are sung in a deep bass baritone voice spouting seemingly meaningless guttural gibberish. This takes some getting used to and may not be everyone’s cup of tea, in fact it can be quite grating at times, as if the vocalist is taking great pains to sound deliberately wacky. However, on “Vlu” an almost dainty melody twitters while that basso profondo voice adds a resonance that pours out of the speakers like thick treacle. The guitar lines in “Poscoce” have the atonal jaggedness of “Doc at the Radar Station” era Captain Beefheart and “birlium barlium bleum” sounds like English linguistic eccentric Professor Stanley Unwin singing a retarded flamenco, while a deep throbbing post-punk bassline runs throughout “Rodo,” punctuated by bright trumpet bursts.

Now, I could go on about many of the other tracks here (none of them sound the same, which is part of the charm) but that would spoil the fun. Sure, it may be hard work at times, but if you look beyond the blatant weirdness of the music and you will find a distinctive and idiosyncratic CD of Brazilian art rock.

Reviewed by: Andy Cumming

Reviewed on: 2005-04-01

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