Vinicius Cantu•ria

Vinicius Cantu•ria

Horse and Fish

Bar/None

At first much of Horse and Fish, Vinicius Cantu•ria’s fifth studio album, would seem to be analogous to pale wallpaper: inoffensive, tame, barely noticeable, not so much music as it is part of the d•cor. Hence the superficial parallels between this and the sonic ambience being pumped into the downtown Starbucks or countless franchised nightclubs, the stuff scientifically formulated to make patrons feel at once cosmopolitan, sophisticated and mellow, profoundly comfortable but very cutting-edge.

There is, however, quite a lot running under that reserved surface — probably more than even sensitive listeners can take in at once. Cantu•ria’s self-stated modus operandi is to blend the electro-lounge sound with traditional bossa nova. It’s the standard “turn the old into new” approach cited by about ninety percent of contemporary musicians, an artistic philosophy which itself is now so old and tired that it is in desperate need of some new life. All the same, Cantu•ria carries this out admirably, using ones and zeroes in the most sensual and refined way possible. His own chart “Quase Choro” is acoustic guitar, Cantu•ria’s hushed vocals and sparing percussion, all of which is accentuated by the slightly dissonant burbles and sighs of the cu•ca. With an electronic nudge, the vocals occasionally shimmer; the cu•ca takes on a muted quality. It retains the essence of the most poignant bossa nova — the poetic longing, the saudade — and never once stumbles into the contrivance or triteness of the rest of the lounge genre.

In addition to the six original tracks penned by Cantu•ria himself (and the occasional songwriting partner), there are four covers, Gilberto Gil’s “Prociss•o,” “O Barquinho” by Roberto Menescal and Ronaldo B•scoli, and two Antonio Carlos Jobim charts, “Este Seu Olhar” and “Ligia.” Justification of covers such as these comes when an artist improves upon the original, perhaps drawing out some overlooked musical thread or ridding a song of its more anachronistic qualities. Take, for example, the Jawbox rendition of Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” Or Minor Threat’s “Stepping Stone.” Or the infinite versions of Monk’s “‘Round Midnight.” The problem, if one can call it that, with the jazz bossa nova of Gil and Jobim is that it still sounds as fresh as ever, thereby making anachronisms difficult to spot; and their own performances of this music are so nuanced, so delicate and rich, that finding a new musical angle — especially finding one for the sake of “contemporification” — risks destroying the timeless qualities of the original, a pejoration from eternal into ephemeral. But Cantu•ria takes each composition and distils it to some fundamental emotion and chord progression, then builds on that core in his characteristically minimalist style. Thus the first Jobim song becomes a more shadowy version of itself, not a fawning attempt at homage using more modern studio equipment. The Gil chart is something of a beautiful paradox: wholly familiar but wholly transformed.

At best, Cantu•ria’s latest album will introduce the electronic generation to the progenitors of jazz bossa nova like B•scoli, Jobim, Gil and Jo•o and Astrud Gilberto, and it will firmly establish the musician himself as one of their most unique and noteworthy successors. At worst, it will soothe a roomful of coffee drinkers or tipsy socialites. Of these two possible outcomes, we should all hope for the first.

Bar None Records: www.bar-none.com/

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Recently on Ink 19...

  • Summerland
    Summerland

    In rural England, a cranky woman bonds with and evacuee boy and uncovers a strange connection to her past.

  • Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations
    Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations

    These geniuses of early comedy finally get the presentation they are due in this Blu-ray edition.

  • Four-Letter Words
    Four-Letter Words

    No need to worry about offending delicate sensibilities with this playlist. We’re not talking about profanity, so just take the title at face value.

  • A Genesis In My Bed
    A Genesis In My Bed

    Former Genesis guitarist, Steve Hackett shares his life story in his story in an engaging and honest memoir. Reading his story feels like hanging out with a friend who’s interested in sharing how he felt living these experiences.

  • The Jayhawks
    The Jayhawks

    XOXO (Sham/Thirty Tigers). Review by Jeremy Glazier.

  • 18 to Party
    18 to Party

    When you’re in 8th grade, sneaking into a bar is way cooler than it is when you’re 40.

  • Adam
    Adam

    A pregnant woman finds a home in Casablanca.

  • 2020 on Fire
    2020 on Fire

    Sound Salvation takes on current events with a playlist addressing the current fight for racial and social justice in America and the battles playing out in the streets in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd.

  • Pokey Lafarge
    Pokey Lafarge

    Rock Bottom Rhapsody (New West Records). Review by Jeremy Glazier.

  • Landfall
    Landfall

    Cecilia Aldarondo takes a look at Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

From the Archives