Mente by Thiago NassifRelease date: July 3, 2020
Label: Gearbox Records
From the second part of the Sixties, up to this day, Brazilian Tropicalia music was always sounding fresh and intriguing. Possibly one of the reasons for that is that it usually asks more (musical and other) questions, making actually the listener scramble for answers. Very often, those question would go in the form of what’s that funky sound, or wait a minute, what is that cog in the (musical) wheel? And in most cases, it was those cogs that made a positive difference. Of course, with Tropicalia there was always a political theme going in the background. No wonder that in the time of political turmoil in the late Sixties Brazil its prominent purveyors like Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil were exiled from the country.
Rio de Janeiro multi-instrumentalist and producer Thiago Nassif and Mente, his latest album seem quite intent on keeping that brilliant tradition alive. And it all starts with the album’s title itself. Nassif explains naming the album after the Portuguese word “mente”, which means “mind” and also “to lie”: “I chose this name mainly because Portuguese is the only language that connects these two semantic possibilities: thinking and lying. And also because now we are living this post-truth political era, where Brazil is at the top of the charts in these matters right now.”
Of course, any political message, no matter how strong it is can fall on deaf ears if it is not backed by some equally strong music. And on Mente, Nassif excels in both, with some equally brilliant support for co-producer and guitarist Arto Lindsay, who himself is as familiar with Brazilian music as any Brazilian musician. Oh, and he is no stranger to throwing a cog in the wheel himself.
Still, Mente is Nassif’s show throughout, particularly exemplified in his songwriting and arranging skills, whether it is the opening ‘Soar Estranho,’ the lilting Bossa rhythms of ‘Voz Única Foto Sem Calinha’ or other funky stuff of ‘Trepa Trepa’. Of course, all with a twist of some sort of other, brilliant stuff.