Album Review: Ricardo Dias Gomes – Muito Sol : re-imagining post rock with a tropicalia soul.

The Breakdown

Ricardo Dias Gomes latest statement represents a sure-footed stride into more definitive territory. In short it’s knock-out, the sound of pure sonic celebration.
Hive Mind Records 8.9

In the shimmers of the recent loss of Os Mutantes founder Rita Lee that follows Gal Costa’s passing last year it’s poignant to get a reminder that music doused with tropicalia is most definitely out there and still determined to make those bigger splashes. Enter the inestimable Hive Mind Records latest release, Muito Sol, a third solo album by Brazilian multi-instrumentalist and song- crafter Ricardo Dias Gomes. An influential player in Rio’s hyper-productive underground scene since the 90s, here is a musician revered for his contribution to original tropicalista Caetano Veloso’s creative surge in the early 2000s. As a member of Veloso’s band on an extra-ordinary run of albums from 2006 to 2012 (check with , Zii e Zie and Abraçaço for proof) Gomes was part of the sound that helped the alt-rock end of MPB assert its own identity.

It’s those experiences together with an inevitable experimental urge which he has taken forward with him on his solo work. His debut ‘-11’ in 2015 intriguingly spiked a visceral swirl of darkwave and drone with Bahian folk and Brasilia psych before 2018’s ‘Aa’ took a more electronic twist. There are elements of both shaping the development of Muito Sol but this latest statement represents a sure-footed stride into more definitive territory. In short, it’s knock-out.

Opening with the title track there’s an immediate necessity to take notice, a curiosity raised by setting a fidgety bass-line under some lo-fi organ chords and suggesting you’ve entered some shadowy lounge bar. Gomes’s snoozing vocal relaxes dreamily until somehow, with a snare crack, we are in a different place altogether, a muscular rock, kosmische driven, fuzzy bass freak out zone. From Stereolab to Kikagaku Moyo with effortless flow in just five minutes is some achievement.

Such post rock dynamics may be a key informant on the album but Gomes interpretation is never formulaic. This is no standard quiet/loud record. The breezy Invernão Astral floats un-menaced throughout, almost shoegaze but ruffled with Brazilian psychedelia, Alex Toth’s richly vocal trumpet and a layer of agit-distortion that Gomes leaves grumbling in the song’s sub-strata. Um Dia shows further confidence in keeping the tone introspective, its jangling guitar pattern and chamber music keys drifting between prog and new age but avoiding any pastiche. Similarly during the tempo switching audacity of Não ver onde se vê you are in no doubt that the hints of grunge melancholy, electronica and maybe Grizzly Bear are melding to make enticingly original music.

The strength of Gomes the singer and songwriter shines even brighter in the less instrumentally angular tracks on Muito Sol. The gorgeous drifting acoustic framed ballad Com 6 Anos showcases his vocal range in the subtle match of the basso and falsetto, a classic samba trope. That affinity with tradition also filters through the shimmering sparkle of Menos as the song shuffles gently to a traditional percussive roll before scaling up to a more dramatic rhythmic ceremonial. When the electronics intensify while the earthy beats get closer, you begin to enter somewhere otherworldly.

That sense of unfamiliarity and unease niggles beneath the surface of even the most sedate moments of the album. Gomes has said that Muito Sol is his attempt to reflect on his own feelings following the move from Rio to his new base in Lisbon and the tensions of transition in a place where people operate differently. Morrerei Por Isso feeds on that narrative, a surreal electric samba that nods to his old mentor Velosa with its sultry melodic passage, proto-prog elegance and emotionally raw sax solo, before disintegrating into a storm of white noise. Confusion, loss, anger seem to be as much fuel for this exceptional album as joy, solace and contentment.

The musicality of the band that Gomes has assembled for the recording clearly helps with the fluent negotiation of these mood shifts. A balance between familiar collaborators (Jeremy Gustin and Will Graefe who recorded as a post rock power trio with Gomes on ‘The Whole Emptiness’ in 2019), Brooklynites Alex Toth and Ryan Dugre, a Brazilian contingent (Gil Oliviera, Jonas Sa and Pedro Sa) and the indispensable polymath Shahzad Ismaily enables Gomes’s nuanced but complex vision to take shape. This is a collective that thrives on the range and invention of Muito Sol but which can also crash down heavily when that is needed.

That’s what the closing track Coração Sulamericano requires from its looming shamanistic build up to a spooked improv sax skronk and onto the thumping garage metal thrash finale. Here is the sound of pure sonic celebration, of what feels right rather than what convention says should be, a maxim that the primal drone of Flux sticks to during its singular focus on an earnest Gomes bass throb. Maybe that’s what holds Muito Sol together as an album, a consistent will to stay free of the traditional while not abandoning the heritage, to take influences from all corners and create something new in a way last heard on Juçara Marçal’s recent releases. Yes, Ricardo Dias Gomes is calling on the tropicalia spirit and looking to the future.

Get your copy of Muito Sol by Ricardo Dias Gomes now from your local record store of direct from Hive Mind HERE

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