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Quietus Mix 40: Lucas Santtana Bids Adieu To Summer
Russ Slater , September 2nd, 2011 09:42

Brazil's Lucas Santtana chats to Russ Slater and contributes the fortieth in our mix series with a selection of early autumnal acoustic guitar music, from both Brazil and further afield

Sem Nostalgia, the new album from Brazil's Lucas Santtana, follows the footsteps of Brazilian greats like João Gilberto while simultaneously deconstructing the exact music they made. The only instruments on the album are voice and guitar, exactly as it was for Gilberto on the albums he made in the 50s and 60s which defined the bossa nova guitar style, but Santtana takes these two instruments in a bewildering number of directions.

Together with an army of fellow musicians and producers, Santtana uses these instruments to make hazy atmospheric ballads, uptight Afro-funk tunes, intoxicated sambas and guitar-only mashups that show a ridiculous number of directions for Brazilian music to move into and a freshness of sound that belies the fact this album was actually released in Brazil in 2009.

None of this should be too surprising for fans of Santtana's music. Sem Nostalgia is his fourth album. His first album Eletro Bem Dodô was released in 2000 and gained stellar reviews from a cast of US magazines and newspapers including The New York Times, whose Ben Ratliff stated that “Santtana is a musician supremely conscious of his cultural coordinates. This is an artist who knows he’s post-modern, and who sees his reflection in a country where post-moderninsm is an act of historical consciousness, rather than merely of solipsism.”

It's taken him a while to produce another album capable of pushing the boundaries both in Brazil and the rest of the world, and that is certainly what Sem Nostalgia is. Here we talk to Santtana about the inspiration behind the album and how it came to fruition.

Sem Nostalgia sounds completely different to your previous albums. Where does this need for change come from?

Lucas Santtana: All of my albums sound very different. I like to make each one a different type of musical style or to work with a different musical universe. For example, with 3 Sessions In A Greenhouse I wanted to work the universe of dub, to make a mix of dub music with other styles. With each disc I have made there has been a different sound.

What was the inspiration behind Sem Nostalgia?

LS: I used nostalgia as my inspiration. What inspired me was the format of violão, the classical format of Brazilian guitar. The reality is that João Gilberto arrived with this style of playing guitar 50 years ago and since then nothing has changed, nobody has messed with the style, everyone is really respectful of it. It's the same format that it's always been, just guitar and voice.

So, I thought that I would make a disc of Brazilian guitar but in a different way, to play with the idea of tradition, show that as well as the two main instruments [guitar and voice] you can use lots of different sounds.

How was the process of this album different to the others? With the preview album [3 Sessions In A Greenhouse] you were recording with a band yeah? How did this change for Sem Nostalgia?

LS: It's the only disc I have made where at the beginning I knew exactly what I wanted, for each song, from each musician. When I started the disc I decided that I wanted to make it quickly because everything was in my head and I didn't want to lose the ideas. I contacted various friends for each song, musical brothers who I knew could help make the music quickly.

I had to think 'how do I involve each musician', because each person I had respect for. I wanted there to be a cinema in each song. Each helped me to define the sound of each track. [Sem Nostalgia includes collaborations with Arto Lindsay, Do Amor, João Brasil, Regis Damasceno, Ronie Jorge and Buguinha Dub to name just a few. All are well worth investigating for fans of Sem Nostalgia]

In some respects an album can be defined by geography or location. For example, it could sound like it was made in the city or countryside, in Brazil or another country, at home or in a studio, and so on. Yet, Sem Nostalgia seems to mix all of these domains. Were you influenced at all by a particular location or place?

LS: It's influenced by both the countryside and the city, but at the same time there is some of Rio de Janeiro, the city where I live, Salvador where I was born, São Paulo where I go every couple of months. There are sounds of many cities and the countryside. Places that have older people, birds, silence - but at the same time it is involved with the big city, with lots of cars, lots of noise. So, it has a little of both. Also, it's a disc that has much from Brazil but also from the rest of the world. Maybe, this is why people from outside of Brazil are able to enjoy the songs more, especially those in English.

Why do you sing in English? [The interview was done in Portuguese with Lucas stating that his English wasn't good enough.]

LS: It's like this. All my discs have songs in English, because in the end it's very prominent in Brazilian culture. People watch lots of films in English, they listen to bits of music in English. It has a sound that I like that is present in the life of my friends, my son who learns English in school. It was also about the space of the melody. In English the words have lots of phonemes so it's a lot easier to make a little melody. This is what we did with 'Who Can Say Which Way?' In Portuguese it's much more difficult.

Would you be able to name one musician from Brazil that's been a big inspiration?

LS: I like a lot of people, people all over the world. Those from the 70s through to the current day. It's impossible to name one inspiration.

Okay, so a few names...

LS: Cartola, Dorival Caymmi, Luiz Gonzaga, Tom Jobim, João Gilberto, Caetano [Veloso], [Gilberto] Gil, Chico Buarque, Milton Nascimento, lots. Also, I get lots of inspiration from artists of this generation; Ceu, Curumin, Hurtmold.

And outside of Brazil?

LS: I listen to classical, jazz, rock, pop, experimental. I like Radiohead a lot, there's another band in England I like a lot called Metronomy. I like a lot of bands with a dance style like Rawkus Trio, Diplo, Switch, Santigold, lots of dancehall music, breakbeat, lots of things.

Sem Nostalgia was released by Mais Um Discos on August 29th