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Os Mutantes

A Divina Comédia Ou Ando Meio Desligado (Lp)

Label: Vinyl Lovers

Format: LP

Genre: Brazilian

Out of stock

"..Along with the fascinating cover art - which finds the middle ground between the lurid, low-budget, exploitation cinema of filmmakers like Jean Rollin or Mario Bava, with the higher aspirations of gothic literature, ala Edger Allen Poe - the literal English translation of the title suggests further hints towards the notions behind the album, with A Divina Comédia (ou Ando Meio Desligado) interpreted as The Divine Comedy (or I Walk a bit Disconnected), with the reference to walking disconnected pointing towards 1960's stoner culture and the various preoccupations with the living dead (once again, check out the Gustav Doré referencing cover art for more...). It sums up the spirit of the album perfectly, with continual references to Dante's eponymous collection, religious cults, black mass, Satanism and the teachings of Aleister Crowley. It's all a bit more tongue in cheek than the influences would suggest, with the band famously making loving pastiche and parody of the California rock scene, as well as including a straight as straight can get version of a doo-wop song that ties in nicely with similar tracks that Frank Zappa was creating for the first Mothers of Invention album, Freak Out! (1966), in particular the likes Go Cry on Somebody Else's Shoulder and How Could I Be Such a Fool?

Like Freak Out!, there's probably something here for everyone; from the heavily psychedelic riff-rock of the opening track, with it's juxtaposing verse/bridge combination and exaggerated guitar crescendo, to the almost lounge pop styling of the fourth track Desculpe Baby, with it's melodic male/female vocal harmonies and lingering remnants of traditional Tropicália. Whether or not the band were going for the same satirical pastiche that Zappa and his Mothers were initially toying with on their earliest albums is unknown; perhaps the Mutants simply wanted to show their range with as many stylistic changes as possible -- but regardless, the continual shifts from drugged-out rock, to pop, to something that sounds like it could have been used as the theme music to some obscure 1970's cop thriller is fascinating stuff, and is certainly integrated into the overall feel of the album extremely well. With the influences in check, 'A Divina Comédia, ou' becomes one of those albums that shouldn't work - seemingly too unfocused and over-flowing with too many ideas to ever fit together comfortably as anything approaching a cohesive event - and yet, somehow, it manages to bring it all together into one amazing, aural assault. 

All the songs are astounding in their own special way; warped by the sardonic black mass references and the caterwauling cartwheel of instrumental flourishes that incorporates the traditional guitar/bass/drums combination alongside keyboards, pump organs, penny whistles, tambourines, Jews harp, woodwinds, string arrangements and a marching band. Some might balk at the track Hey Boy, which begins with Doo Wop influences before eventually embracing 50's pop; and all put together with a straight face and a delivery flat enough to iron your shirt on, but even this track doesn't seem entirely out of place when sandwiched between the stuttering, kaleidoscopic brilliance of the spasticated jazz-psyche ballad Meu refrigerador Não Funciona and the heady 60's sampling surf-rock of Preciso Urgentemente Encontrar Um Amigo, with it's electrified lead guitar work and elasticated changes in time signature between the interweaving vocal harmonies of the alien-like Arnaldo Baptista and the extraordinary Rita Lee. 


The second half of the album moves giddily from the traditional Brazilian ballad Chão De Estrelas - with the serenaded vocals and wonderful instrumental arrangements moving backwards and forwards from heart wrenching, romantic, minor-key melodrama to an absolute rave up with full flamenco rhythms and bristling mariachi horns - to the almost straight rock Jogo De Calçada, which has an incredibly tight rhythm section and storming lead guitar work from the then teenage Sérgio Dias Baptista. It's one of those aforementioned tracks that reminds me most of the theme music to some imaginary cop show, probably set in late 60's San Francisco, and featuring a no-nonsense black private investigator (pre-Shaft) called Eduardo Sanchez, who flirts with the chicks and "don't take no shit!" as he hunts down the homosexual drug-baron Carlos Mendoza, with the opening montage featuring the iconic moment when Sanchez looks up to the ever craning camera and screams "MENDOOOOOOZA!!!". From here we move onto the minimal and hymn like Haleluia, which features the title of the song being sung celestially over a lonesome funeral organ; the ultimate antithesis to the dark and hopeless sound of the opening track, Ando Meio Desligado, with it's chanted, agitated vocals and aggressive, psychedelic guitar playing. As I mentioned earlier; all the tracks are brilliant, technically astounding and continually inventive... though personal favourites would have to include the abovementioned opening track Ando Meio Desligado, the sweet-sounding minor-chord pop of Ave, Lúcifer, the proto-ambience of Haleluia, the closing instrumental Oh! Mulher Infiel and the ultimate highlight of highlights of highlights, Meu Refrigerador Não Funciona, which has fantastic playing from the bothers Baptista and a banshee like vocal delivery from Rita Lee, as the glorious free-jazz psyche-rock ends up pushing the six minute mark before mutating into a series of scat-like improvisations and guttural growls over minimal drum and bass.

As one of the defining works of the Mutantes career, the influence A Divina Comédia, ou Ando Meio Desligado is apparent on albums by the likes of Beck, Radiohead, Neutral Milk Hotel, Yann Tiersen, Talking Heads, The Flaming Lips and Of Montreal, to name but a few. It exists in its own world, though (like all great albums should), moving schizophrenically between the combined influence of Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil - with the mix of Tropicália and Bossa Nova textures and rhythms - and the appropriation of the psychedelic rock and 60's pop sound of bands like Pink Floyd and The Beatles. The album is a constant joy; wriggling and mutating quite literally from one drugged out idea to the next as one great track proceeds an even greater track as zombies groove with seventeenth century freedom fighters and the spirits of the living dead. It's evocative, imaginative and intelligent music that rocks out like a bitch in heat; plainly displaying the influence of Barrett's Pink Floyd, The 13th Floor Elevators, The Beatles and Stones, and the joy of Jefferson Airplane... but clearly going much, much further into the realms of gonzo eclecticism and exotic excess than those particular artists would ever dare to venture. A Divina Comédia, ou Ando Meio Desligado is a testament to the Mutantes mk. 1 as a creative unit, tethered by the ace production skills of Arnaldo Saccomani, and really taking the intricate and enticing musical textures of debut album Os Mutantes (1967) and their cherished follow up Mutantes (1969) further than we ever thought possible. Clearly, this is rock music at it's finest. " (Robin Tripp, Headheritage)

Cat. number: 900389
Year: 2017

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