Label: Adrenaline Records
Brazilian multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Curumin’s release JapanPopShow feels disjointed and fails to hit a consistent groove. Curumin attempts to blend a plethora of reggae, funk, hip hop, soul and Brazilian popular music into a new sound of his own. The number of musical and cultural quotations on this release is impressive but overreaching and he fails to define his own coherent sound and voice. Curumin is obviously a well-versed musician; the problem instead lies in over-crafting his sound and not simply letting the music flow. Each song sounds like disparate samples rather than a complete entity.
The album title and several of the songs, “Kyoto,” “Saido Bangu (Japlish for Side Bang),” are nods to Curumin’s partial Japanese roots. He hails from Sao Paulo, which boasts the largest Japanese population outside of Japan, yet, other than the titling and a smattering of shouted, incoherent phrases, there is a notable absence of Japanese or Asian musical influences. This is surprising considering his thoroughness in quoting from other cultural/musical sources. Maybe Curumin was simply hoping he would be big in Japan?
JapanPopShow launches with a disappointing eponymous track, doubtlessly intended to be a call to light up so that one is in the right state of mental preparedness for the rest of the album. The track is so predictable that it unintentionally mocks itself. Instead of inspiring a rapid recovery of illicit drugs, it brings to mind a drunken Japanese salary man mumbling love poems to no one in particular in a nameless Tokyo bar, while a rare recording of Dick Dale plays in the background.
Songs “Compacto” and “Misterio Stereo” reveal Curumin’s ability to write in classic Música Popular Brasileira style and we find him acknowledging the influence of the incomparable Gilberto Gil. Both tracks are strong melodically and represent the best songwriting on the album. “Compacto,” is uplifting and instantly takes hold, while “Misterio Stereo” flows easily and carries an easy current from opening to final strum. Although these are both solid efforts, they are not characteristic of the rest of the album. Four of the tracks on JapanPopShow, “Dançando No Escuro,” “Salto No Vacuo Com Joelhada,” “Saido Bangu,” and “Fumanchu,” are instrumentals – that is, entirely composed of samples, many layers of loops and some original instrumentation. The 1:59 second “Salto No Vacuo Com Joelhada,” is perhaps the most creative song on the album. It opens with a brilliant music box loop, which cleverly includes the sound of winding the crank to set the initial rhythm. After several music box cycles the distant sound of Miles flavored trumpet floats in over the music box in sleepy revere while far off backing vocals lift dreamily into the ether. Suddenly, in the 49th second we are launched into full beat and bass which drive the music box and choir all the way home to the end of the song. The other instrumentals come across as average sounding quotations of Blaxploitation film soundtracks.
Curumin has talent and potential as an artist if he can discipline himself on future efforts. Focusing more on writing songs like “Compacto,” “Misterio Stereo” and “Salto No Vacuo Com Joelhada,” will benefit him and his fans. Songs that are at once fun, danceable and unique can be created without falling into the pit of overdrawing on influences he wishes to honor. Curumin has shown impressive creative effort and desire to make us hear his music on JapanPopShow; the key to getting us to listen in the future will be whether or not he succeeds in bringing out his own voice.
by Ezra Matteo