Few drum cultures have thrived in modern music as well as Brazil's batucada, the percussion style characterized by syncopated groove-marches and gargantuan polyrhythms pounded out by dozens of players. In the hands of the right DJs, studio Merlins and 21st-century musician-genius types, these rhythms can work like inspirational verses from ancient texts.
At least that's the effect achieved by most of the contributors to Caipirissima, a compilation of Brazilian modernists (and sympathetic expats) who use batucada as a jumping off point for exploring today's Brazilian beats. More often than not, the percussive force here crashes through the studio treatments. The opener, Croatian-born Brazilian Suba's production of percussionist Joao Parahyba's "Central do Brasil" (RealAudio excerpt), is essentially a midtempo samba punctuated by bits of digitalia. On the other hand, Suba's studio deconstruction of Mestre Ambrosio Underground's "Pupila Dilatada" (RealAudio excerpt) augments the drum combo's no-holds-barred groove with walls of effect-laden guitars, creating the perfect soundtrack to a napalm bombing.
Brazilian-born Englishman Amon Tobin's "Sub Tropic" (RealAudio excerpt) is the collection's jazzy, sampladelic thesis, with subterranean bass effects and melancholy trumpet lines whirring through a rhythmic minefield. By comparison, Arto Lindsay's "Whirlwind" (RealAudio excerpt), a gorgeous bit of atmospheric batucada-pop, seems fragile, while the ambient keyboard melodies of I.N. Project's "Santa Teresa" transport Brasilia all the way to the chill-out room.