CD Review: Os Mutantes

Haih or Amortecedor (Anti-/ Epitaph)

Axl Rose, stand down. A new benchmark for gaps between albums has just been set by a true legend. Haih or Amortecedor is the first album of new material by iconic Brazilian collective Os Mutantes in three-and-a half decades. How important is this band? They were '60s contemporaries of Gilberto Gil, who welcomed them into the Tropicália fold, and they've been cited as an influence by Beck, David Byrne, Flaming Lips, Devandra Banhart and Kurt Cobain, who lobbied unsuccessfully to get the band to reform and open for Nirvana on their 1993 Brazilian tour.

On Haih or Amortecedor, Os Mutantes start with the foundation they established more than 40 years ago: a psychedelic take on Brazilian rhythm pop —which also poked fun at the country's military rulers, earning them government threats — re-imagined for the 21st century. The result is a whirlwind of past triumphs and fresh evolution. Os Mutantes are mad cultural monks whose hymns are stitched together from Beatles influences, bubbling bossa nova, Tropicália with Hendrixian flash, sonic collage techniques they devised in the '60s that are considered cutting edge today, epic prog touches and a Zappa-like affinity for ridiculously appropriate counterpoint. Os Mutantes have crafted the rarest of all possible musical works: Haih or Amortecedor fits perfectly in the context of OM's catalog yet it's as vibrant and relevant as the music of their grandchildren's generation.

Brian Baker