By Ernest Barteldes
Six years is a long time to wait between albums for a new artist, but Sao Paulo-born Luisa Maita seemed to have made the right choice in this case. Since the release of her much acclaimed debut album Lero Lero (Cumbancha), she did a lot of touring (including many stateside appearances), collaborated with various Brazilian musicians and collected various awards in recognition of that first album.
The formula of Lero-Lero was quite simple: a modern take on bossa and samba-inspired tunes with a creative edge. When I heard that album, she reminded me a bit of Marisa Monte, who does a lot of experimentalism with her music but keeps a firm grip on more traditional beats. She could have simply stayed the course and done more of that, but she clearly decided to go into a completely different direction with her second album.
“Fio da Memoria” is more of a rock-fusion album: distorted guitars are front and center, but the rhythm is pure Brazil. For instance, “Olé” has a lot of electronics going on, but the percussion is clearly influenced by the sounds of Northeastern Brazil, while “Porão” has a Maracatu feel. The title track is a refreshing electric samba (close to the work of +2 , the leaderless music collective formed by Moreno Veloso, Kassin and Domenico Lanceloti), while “Folia” is pure Bahia samba, with a full percussive group behind Maita’s voice – and little else.
“Fio da Memoria” takes a few plays to totally sink in – though most of it is fun to listen to, it is also music that makes you think thanks to its clever arrangements and the way the instruments are played – there are quite a few surprises as the music plays. An example of this is “Volta,” a tune that begins with layered vocals and a curious line – until the drums come in behind a three-part harmony that take you into a 70s-influenced slow funk.
In a year filled with so much music that made little sense, “Fio da Memoria” is quite refreshing – the music is both smart and enjoyable, and makes this one of the best World Music releases of 2016.