São Paulo Underground: The Principles of Intrusive Relationships

Two years on from the Sauna: Um, Dois, Três debut, São Paulo Underground's sophomore album finds the originating duo of cornetist Rob Mazurek (Isotope 217, Mandarin Movie, Chicago Underground) and percussionist Mauricio Takara augmented by two additional percussionists, Guilherem Granado and Richard Ribiero. Naturally the band's sound is dense and heavy but it's not as straightforwardly arranged as its instrumentation might suggest—it's not simply Mazurek's horn backed by three colourists in other words. Though the cornet is able to extricate itself from the sonic mass (on account of timbral contrast as anything else), the four collectively generate a free-wheeling, glutinous mass teeming with drums, bells, electric piano, cornet, and electronics, a brutal sound that at times calls to mind Miles' plunge into his own heart of darkness immortalized on the mid-‘70s live sets Agharta, Dark Magus, and Pangaea.

Tellingly, the forty-five-minute album opens at a broil, with Mazurek's cornet fighting through a thick undertow of electronic-percussive maelstrom in “Final Feliz.” Rather than splintering into pieces, the music actually rights itself somewhat and coalesces into a still-dense but now funky rumble. At those times when he does occupy the front line (e.g., “Entre um Chão e Outro”), Mazurek excavates the full range of his instrument's expressive potential. In “Cosmogonia,” the cornet resembles a diseased elephant wailing amidst the thunderous rolls and cymbal flourishes of multiple drum sets while, writhing spasmodically, the sputtering horn almost drowns in electronic quicksand during the closing freakout “So Por Precaução.” Uneasy listening it may be but all praise to Mazurek and company for not wavering from their uncompromising path.

September 2008