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Brazilian Psych-Rock In Memory Of Lula Cortes

Lula Cortes, from the cover of his album <em>Rosa De Sangue</em>.
Courtesy of Rozenblit/Time Lag Records
Lula Cortes, from the cover of his album Rosa De Sangue.

The influential musician died this weekend. Hear his music and more 1970s Brazilian psych-rock in this list, originally published on Aug. 7, 2008.

Like many people entranced by the wonders of Brazil's tropicalia movement, I discovered Os Mutantes, Gal Costa and Caetano Veloso first. I listened to the early tunes, produced by maestros such as Rogerio Duprat. As I kept digging, I found Arthur Verocai and his sublime self-titled album.

Finally, all the way down the rabbit hole, I came to Recife, in northeastern Brazil, where in the 1970s a scene coalesced around a musician named Lula Cortes. A hazier, sun-drenched offshoot of the psychedelic rock scene happening around the world at the time, the movement created a handful of labels that recorded, produced and distributed some of the most beautiful music I've ever stumbled across. It's perfect for hot summer nights.

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Brazilian Psych-Rock In Memory Of Lula Cortes

Lula Cortes/Zé Ramalho

This is the first song on Lula Cortes' and Ze Ramalho's legendary double-disc 1975 album (Paebiru), of which a few hundred were pressed and most destroyed in a flood at the pressing plant. Hypnotic and as funky as you can get, the album was inspired by the discovery of an ancient rock in the jungle; the set's four sides are named Air, Land, Water and Fire.

Marconi Notaro

Marconi Notaro: poet, songwriter, visionary, drunk. This is from his solo album No Sub Reino Dos Metazoarios, one of my favorite albums of all time. This track — the heaviest, funkiest piece of psychedelia on an album full of great moments — was the first song to hit me. Rough translation: "I'll remain faithful to my origins / son of God / nephew of Satan." What a way to begin a song.


This trance-inducing quasi-raga is also pulsingly rhythmic, and approachably in 4/4 time. "Can I Be Satwa" features Cortes on tricordio, an instrument he made himself that's sort of a cross between a sitar and a dulcimer. Not only did the musicians in this movement invent their own labels and create their own artwork, but they also fashioned their own instruments — why not manifest all points of one's musical destiny?

Flaviola E O Bando Do Sol

A minimalist folk-psych masterpiece. I don't know why this morose, Shakespearean ballad sounds better in Portuguese than in English; it just does. How many summer nights have I listened to this song over and over, wondering if I could stay up to see the rays of dawn while it plays?

Lula Cortes

This track is from Cortes' supremely rare Rosa De Sangue album — which, due to a major-label contractual stipulation, never saw release after its first and only limited pressing. What a shame. Though the album is from 1980, well after the high point of the psych-rock movement, it's full of fuzzy psychedelic workouts, Cortes' trademark solo jams on his triocordio and folk-funk joints like this.