“I don’t like poetry, my thing is spoken word”, he told me Alex Antunes in the middle of the telephone interview (landline!). The phrase jangled the head of this distinguished but pretentious writer whose mission was to converse with one of the most restless and productive minds in the Brazilian musical (and also journalistic) milieu.
The ex Aquira S. & The Girls Who Wrong, a pillar band of the 1980s post-punk movement in São Paulo, has a mind that travels against the current, which consequently makes it an important piece in what was once defined as a counterculture. He is not afraid to provoke discord, and he is a little disliked by the obligatory nature of “consensus”. We’ll talk about that later.
Back to poetry. How could someone “who doesn’t like it” have released one of the Brazilian records with the most poetic lyrics of recent years? Was their placement a trap? Or an attempt to already destroy any possibility of consensus between the two of us? Or between artist and audience?
I recently read on social media that treating the pandemic as a moment of learning or growth would be a kind of privileged middle-class arrogance. I agree. For artists confined at home, however, it was a period of massive production, to the point where streaming services recorded records for new singles, many recorded at home or remotely.
During the confinement, which forced us to live a kind of solitary reality show where we were the spectators of ourselves, the artist’s function (that of making art, wow), became a kind of obligation. Some spoke of the present, noting what they felt. Alex Antunes, on the album Alex Antunes & The Death Disco Machine, spoke of the past. Or at least spoke of the present supported by the ton of experiences accumulated in decades and decades of dixavam of what it is like to live in the city of São Paulo. He took notebooks out of the trunk, retrieved old scribbles, created new ones, learned to sample, and produced an album filled with cameos, using techniques as new as a landline.
A poetic record.
Sorry Alex. No consensus. No hard feelings.
Is it over there, the first track on the disc, with the participation of Luciana Mancini on vocals and in the composition of the lyrics, it starts like this:
So… she… came to visit me / I was already waiting for her / And I thought I was prepared this time / But she came in a rage / She got into my dreams / Broke glass / Drank my wine (blood) / Stole my man…
Why, Mr Antunes!!
In time: the track is beautiful. A perfect intro for a record, as only rappers, until then, knew how to do. “She” already splices with the second song, Unfaithful M., this already with the torn voice, abused Alex Antunes. His voice, for the most attentive, is his biography. Fat bass, 4×4 beat, schizophrenic saxophones… The Death Disco Machine entered the room.
It’s that despite your regrets / Like your dislikes / Dealing with his misfortunes / And knowing about the tides of the seas / I didn’t even want to change the air / Going to the same places / Being part of your desires / Unfaithful M.
And so it goes. This poetry talk transcends me. I find myself randomly opening the page of a book, finding this text and reading it to the woman I love, at dawn, over the phone (not necessarily landline).
It was Alex’s lyrics and his death machine that first co-opted me on the occasion of the release of the first single that anticipated the album. Gently called “Fucking Weird People & Other Transforming Pastimes“. It’s the fourth song on the record. “Call the impossibilities possibilities / start this exercise with vain things like screwing weird people / and other transformative pastimes.”
The text (poetic, fuck you) is filled with sublime phrases collected from the floor dirty with drink and cigarettes from some underground hole. There is sex. And the insistence on the word “consensus” worried me. What is this implication? Innocent, I related to consensual sex.
“Today there is an obligation of consensus” – he taught me – “a need that everyone needs to agree with one another. That it is not possible to live together without thinking in the same way”.
If you, the reader, were born after the turn of the millennium, it is necessary to put it in context. There was a time when the evolution of society was based precisely on the opposition of ideas. Disagreeing revealed an object that was in our blind spot. Hearing the argument made us question our belief, update it or, in most cases, upgrade our way of thinking, admitting some new options in the way of seeing, giving a little here, taking a little bit there.
There was a time when journalists spoke ill of records. And the musicians spoke ill of critics. And both dawned in the same bar or concert hall. All this before the meteor crash. From the opening of the slit. Before the world became a great festival in Parintins.
It’s like, finally, that passage from the book of Ecclesiastes says, immortalized much more by the song of the Byrds (Turn, Turn, Turn), than by the Bible itself: “there is a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to save, and a time to cast away; time to tear, and time to sew; time to be silent, and time to speak”.
There is a time to disagree and a time to agree – even if Alex Antunes does not agree with this.
Antunes moved to the USP campus when he was young to study journalism and cinema, he got into the musical vanguard of the 80s and since then he has done a little of everything, as long as everything was in the art world. Writer, journalist, cultural agitator, producer. On the eve of the centenary of modernism in São Paulo, it is fair (and also cool) to imbue him with a certain anthropophagic behavior, especially with regard to the sound swallowing present in his music.
The album is full of clippings, collages, loops, sound invasions by geniuses like Fabio Golfetti (autumn violet), Kodiak, Fausto Fawcett and the own Akira. It has a lo-fi sound and an invitation to deconstruction. It was all produced during the pandemic in Audacity, primitive software that would make electronic music kids stand on end.
Alex Antunes, Wendl V and Fe Pinatti during recording at the Beatmasters studio – photo: Penna Prearo
The album brings provocation on every track. There is discomfort and a strong influence, perhaps even due to the semi-technological aspects, of the EBM / Industrial, the sound of São Paulo. It is full of participations and has a huge technical sheet in the CD booklet. Yes, Antunes “pressed” a CD, with a cute booklet and everything. I confess that I loved receiving this “physical media” from an album again, which will be classified on the most affectionate shelf on the shelf.
In relation to such spoken word, the technique is taken literally. From the beginning to the end of the record, there is not a single change of note in relation to Antunes’ vocals.
I could say it’s a faultless record. But it would be too consensual with the artist. And I don’t want to disappoint you.
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At war with consensus, 80s icon Alex Antunes releases album