Sunny psychedelic pop owes a debt to 1960s Tropicáli
I like to imagine pockets in the world where time stands still or even regresses occasionally. Places surrounded by mountain fog and wrapped in their own echoes. That's the kind of place in Brazil that I picture for Boogarins. The band seems caught in a warp where 1960s Tropicália is vibrant and it's okay to be earnest and awkward as long as the music can wrap around your mind and provide a cocoon. With a lighter tone than their countrymen Os Mutantes, the band fills As Plantas Que Curam with a sunny psychedelia that is one step removed from Beatlesque exploration.
The opening track, "Lucifernandis", tosses out a brief teaser of studio pre-taping before jumping into the insistent guitar riff and rolling drum beat. The guitar twists in on itself with a lightly fuzzed trail and the subtly echoed vocals begin chanting through the opening verse. The joyous sound reminds me of Roky Erickson, but with much sweeter singing. The chorus turns up the sunshine with a harmonized melody that has passed through several hands since its origins on Magical Mystery Tour. It's not so much that the song is derivative, but more that Boogarins have a talent for creating songs that sound instantly recognizable. Throughout As Plantas Que Curam, I felt more like I was returning to an old favorite, rather than meeting a mysterious stranger.
The second track, "Erre", shifts the roots from Lennon and McCartney to Pink Floyd circa The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. The production has the same hollow quality on the opening guitars and a familiar sounding, hypnotic bass line. The singing even suggest Syd Barrett's phrasing. It's a rich, spacy ride, spurred on by persistent flanged cymbal work that fills the track with a constant rattle that dazes and bewilders. While I don't speak Portuguese, the vocals feel like I'm getting advice from an older brother. The guitar solo wanders in, as if by accident and leads the song to resolution.
Along with these retro flourishes, Boogarins evoke some more modern comparisons. Songs like "Despreocupor" and "Hoje APrendi de Verdade" are filled with groovy good cheer rooted in a naivaté that suggests artists like Devendra Banhart and Robert Pollard (Guided By Voices). The latter track captures a taste of Jimi Hendrix guitar tone, but eschews fireworks for a solid supportive role. The vocals eddy around in a mind-twisting whirlpool. It's disorienting, but there's no chance of a bad trip because we're safe among friends.
The moodiest moment on As Plantas Que Curam comes on "Eu Vou", a mostly acapella tune thick with resonant echoes. The song is ornamented with delicate swells and bubbles popping for a touch of backing music, but they remain understated behind the vocal and its reverberations. The title translates as "I go" or "I will go", which fits the lonely feel of the piece. But, in keeping with the general optimism of the album, the isolation is not crippling; there's a core of resilience in the singer's voice to take comfort from.
Boogarins have made a beautiful album, full of life-affirming psychedelic pop. Sometimes, a foreign language can add an exotic element, but As Plantas Que Curam defuses that with its friendly manner and relaxing vibe. Exotica can be intriguing, but this time, it's nice to surrender myself to such inviting musical surroundings.