Jesse Jarnow

“brazil” – the deady nightshade family singers & cornelius

“Brazil” – Deadly Nightshade Family Singers
from Plain Brown Suit (2000)
self-released (no current website) (buy)

“Brazil” – Cornelius
from Point (2002)
released by Matador (buy)

(files expire on March 15th)

Ary Barroso’s “Brazil” is really one of the loveliest melodies ever written, I think. Though Barroso was Brazilian, his song hardly conjures up images of that sophisticated, chaotic Latin American country for me (probably because it was composed before the advent of bossa nova). Rather, it brings me to some cosmopolitan ’20s getaway that can only be reached by flying in a small plane represented as an advancing dotted line in a travel montage made of maps and stock footage. You know, like in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Excluding Django Reinhardt for no particular reason, the Deadly Nightshade Family Singers and Cornelius have recorded my two favorite versions that I’ve yet heard (please post suggestions if you’ve got others). They’re wildly different. The Nightshades — a macabre chamber string outfit who put out the great Plain Brown Suit in 2000 and then fell off the face of the interwebs — turn in what I (perhaps erroneously) think of as the platonic version. It is thoughtful and romantic. Cornelius completely twists the song on his mindbending Point in 2002, doing away with the signature chromatic riff and filling the song out with electro-acoustic samples, chirping birds, howling dogs, pastoral bleeps, and sputteringly chopped vocals. Somehow, though, it retains everything that I find romantic about the Nightshades’ rendition. This is the definition of a durable song.

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