Weekly Release: Poison Fruit by Ivan Conti

The Return

Ivan Conti member of the Brazilian Jazz-Funk trio Azymuth is back with his first solo-studio album in 20 years. The percussionist delivers a full-length project that explores in depth electronic music whilst staying true to his samba roots. With references to natural phenomenons, in the titles of the songs and sounds used throughout the album, he introduces many synthetic instrumental aspects such as dreamy keyboards and heavy kick drums coexisting with his traditional musical heritage.

The collision between these two worlds is illustrated by the cover of the album where the Brazilian’s face is separated in two. It is ever-so telling of the album’s will to present a duality. One where ‘old school’ and contemporary elements of music are combined in order to create a complex and intriguing musical sphere. He does this by pushing the boundaries of Jazz and infusing dance music elements into to his percussion driven production

Before releasing Poison Fruit Ivan Conti has been involved with a myriad of projects. Since ‘Pulsar’ – his last album – released in 1999 on CID, Ivan has contributed his drum skills to other Brazilian music projects. He was featured on jazz singer Ithamara Koorax’s albums, and has actively produced music with Azymuth. They released their album ‘Aurora’ in 2011. In addition the trio featured on Gilles Peterson’s compilation ‘Brazilika’, an ode to Brazil’s rich musical landscape.

A Hybrid of Styles

This time around Ivan Conti teams up with an intimate group of Brazilian musicians. Azymuth bass player Alex Malheiros features on tracks such as ‘Jemburi’ and ‘Encontro’. The drummer also collaborated with Friends from Rio member Fernando Moares, who lends his keyboard knowledge for this project. Other appearances include Daniel Maunick and Thiago Martins.

The album traverses different moods and styles. Its vision is very clear from the beginning. It starts off with ‘Aroeira’ a samba track. The song hints at the electronic aspect of the album as eerie synth noises make sporadic appearances. By ‘Bacaruau’ (Nighthawk), the fifth track on this project, it is clear that Ivan Conti has leaned towards an electronic take on Jazz and Samba. It is symbolic of his will to marry varying genres of music. The result is astonishing, he effortlessly combines elements of the Brazilian genre and house music which results in a dance-floor ready track. ‘Poison Fruit’ the 8th track on this album also stays true to Samba percussions and is infused with a distorted baseline as well as wavy synths which creates an atmosphere of groove and mystery.

Other songs on the album include ‘Que Legal’ (That’s Nice) and ‘Ecos de Mata’ (Echoes of Forest). Both are lead by fast-paced samba rhythms and are infused with mysterious sounds that add to the album’s theme of mysterious natural forces. ‘Ecos de Mata’ is in fact composed of heavy tribal drumming and the resonance of wind, which reflects the project’s ongoing theme of the harmony between nature and modernity.

Two Worlds Collide

On the other hand certain songs such as ‘Ninho’ (Young Boy) and Ilha da Luz do present smooth musical arrangements bringing calmness to the project’s overflowing energy. These tracks may in fact represent primitivity and the return to simple times when Ivan Conti started out his musical career. It also shows how the artist has evolved musically. By showcasing his musical roots that are entrenched in Bossa-Nova and Jazz, the theme of duality is also summoned by the juxtaposition of styles differing from song to song. Ivan Conti’s musical etiquette varies from track to track as he valses between electronic and samba-jazz.

Poison Fruit, a Painting of Today’s Divided Society?

In broader terms this album leaves room for analysis and questioning of the contemporary world. Ivan Conti has proved with ‘Poison Fruit’ that it is possible to combine musical elements of the 20th century with those of today’s world. This begs to ask the question of the current state of affairs. The recent election of Bolsonaro as the political leader of Brazil has shown how divided society is today. The struggle to accommodate for traditional values and western liberalism has been strongly felt during the election period of 2018. Subsequently leaving a divide. In a strictly trivial sense this album by the Brazilian drummer could be a way of expressing the split between musical genres from different eras, but also the severing of society. Nonetheless, could the ability of Ivan Conti to combine elements of the ‘old’ and ‘new’ world be a sign of hope?

Listen to the album below:


by Y.D.

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