by Dave Segal
on Wed, Feb 20, 2013 at 8:12 AM
Brazilian composer/musician Marcos Valle is a master of the orchestral pop that exudes a bronzed euphoria and a light yet substantial soulfulness. A surfer with long blond hair, Valle is the Brazilian counterpart to America’s Rotary Connection. The man could write the hell out of a heavenly arrangement.
On the four albums Seattle/LA label Light in the Attic is reissuing in January and February—Marcos Valle (1970), Garra (1971), Vento Sul (1972), and Previsão Do Tempo (1973)—Valle purveys a post-bossa, hybridized pop that can be sublimely ebullient or gloriously melancholy. His songs are hummable, but not in blatant ways. He’s an impeccable craftsman, kind of in the vein of Caetano Veloso in his more accessible modes, blending light psychedelia, soul, samba, and baião. Valle also sings the slyly subversive lyrics of his brother Paolo Sergio in a burnished baritone that’s somewhere between Veloso and Gilberto Gil. The delivery’s all about a restraint that’s innately seductive—a style that so many Brazilian artists have mastered.
Garra is my favorite of the quartet, but they’re all worth immersive listening. Valle was at his peak powers here, and these songs have a deathless quality; they stand up to repeated listens as well as anything in the David Axelrod or Charles Stepney canons. The eponymous Marcos Valle, recorded with the great baroque psych-prog band Som Imaginário, is probably the most instantly catchy collection of the four. Recorded with the rock group O Terço, Vento Sul is an incredibly subtle, baroquely beautiful work, elevated by gorgeous flute motifs by Paolo Guimarães. Previsão Do Tempo has a very suave, quasi-exotica vibe to it, and possesses a menagerie of eccentric textures and unpredictable, jazz-fusiony song structures.
Valle’s music is not as off the wall as that by Tropicalia’s oddest proponents like Os Mutantes or Tom Zé, and maybe that’s why underground-music heads haven’t really cottoned to it—or maybe Valle’s records were simply harder to find than those of his Brazilian counterparts. Whatever the case, LITA has gone a long way in getting some of Valle’s most important recordings back in circulation.