Review of Os Mutantes album Haih Or Amortecedor released through Anti.
The story of Brazilian ensemble Os Mutantes reads more like a history lesson through the psychedelia-tinged sixties, progressive rock of the seventies and general re-affirming of both genres via the more technologically advanced noughties. Lest we forget the intermittent eighteen-year hiatus in between times of course, because make no mistake, Os Mutantes quite simply are anything but your average band.
Having initially started out as a three-piece based around the core duo of brothers Arnaldo and Sergio Dias Baptista, Os Mutantes (The Mutants) became one of South America's most influential and prolific musical exports, releasing an impressive seven albums and countless singles as well as spawning several spin-off projects over the ensuing eight years until their acrimonious drug-related split in 1974. Indeed the writing had been on the wall for some time as rarely did they keep the same line-up for more than two consecutive records, the Baptista brothers falling out around the time of 1973's lost gem 'O A e o Z' culminating in guitarist Arnaldo leaving the band and eventually succumbing to his LSD fascination, leaping from a mental institution window causing him to spend six weeks in a coma a year later.
Nevertheless, their legacy has continued to thrive, and having found themselves name checked by all kinds of artists from Sepultura to Kurt Cobain and Black Flag, the inevitable reunion came about three years ago, the Baptista brothers sharing a stage together for the first time in over thirty years at a Tropicalia - the genre which they're cited as having created - exhibition in London.
While there weren't any pre-conceived ideas of new material at the time, it seemed inevitable that new songs would materialise eventually and lo-and-behold, 'Mutantes Depois' and 'A Minha Menina', neither sadly included here, appeared online in the summer of 2008.
'Haih Or Amortecedor' then is their first all-new collection of songs in thirty-five years, and while only one Baptista brother (Sergio Dias) once again remains at the helm along with fellow long-standing member Dinho Leme, the sound and vision is unmistakeably that of Os Mutantes in its execution. As with their previous works, the record draws on a wide range of influences and ideas that mixes political assertions with samba beats ('Baghdad Blues'), Bowie-fied laments ('Anagrama') and blissed out drones ('Gopala Krishna Om') alongside sparse upbeat melodies to create a unique album that defies categorisation in pretty much every way.
Of course there are some parts where the reliance on carnival-esque vocals and pulsating rhythms can get a little too familiar for comfort, but on the whole, 'Haih Or Amortecedor' is a welcome return for an outfit many thought had disappeared into the annals of history a long time ago.
'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.
The two awards have made for a great 72nd birthday present for the country music icon.