Milton Nascimento & Lô Borges - Clube Da Esquina

Two things initially drew me to Brazil, the 1970 World Cup football team and rhythm.

As a 17-year-old drummer in south London in the mid-90’s, reggae had naturally already made an impact on me. Likewise 70’s funk and soul. There was a guy who ran a stall in Greenwich market selling bootleg cassettes and used vinyl. In terms of black America, this stall was a treasure trove for my musical education. Via my turntable and walkman, I’d made my way from the pounding stomp of Motown in the north, through the gospel soul of Memphis and Muscle Shoals down to the voodoo funk of New Orleans.

As the music took me further south, tropical music from the Caribbean turned rhythm upside down until I started to hear Samba and Batucada from Brazil. This music evoked a tempo of life a million miles from Greenwich meantime - but one which to sit within me perfectly.

One day I heard a cassette playing 'Tudo Que Vocé Podia Ser' by Quarteto Em Cy while digging in the vinyl crates. I fell in love with it completely; the guitar chord voicings, the haunting melody and the female vocal group - sounding like a school choir comprised of the girls in detention. There was a looseness and ease I’d not heard before. I asked to buy it, however, the man on the stall said he hadn’t finished making a sleeve for the bootleg tape. But he told me the original version of the song was in the crate I was flipping through. He and picked out Clube Da Esquina by Milton Nascimento & Lô Borges.

Still with a fairly scant knowledge of the genre, I expected the record to fit in the world of Jobim and Gilberto, and whilst that lineage is certainly present, Clube Da Esquina is different, unique - maybe more in line with Sgt Peppers or Forever Changes - but undeniably totally original.

The songs written by Lô Borges (particularly 'O Trem Azul', 'Um Girassol Da Cor Seu Cabelo' and 'Trem De Doido') grabbed me first -with their fuzz guitars, pattering drums and melodic basslines. They captured that feeling I came to understand as ‘saudade’ (a Portuguese word without a direct English translation - ‘the love that remains after someone is gone’). But to me, this was undeniably positive music, not morose or humourless. At the time I didn’t quite understand that feeling but I knew it was important.

I understood the Milton Nascimento songs even less, and he was the artist with the top billing. His voice - otherworldly with an almost androgynous quality, beautiful, intense and enigmatic. 'San Vicente' and 'Dos Cruces' led by Milton on his acoustic guitar and orchestrated by Emir Deodato are stunning examples of power through more than just volume. It’s these songs that have intrigued me the most. Or 'Cravo e Canela' - a playful song that somehow contradicts it’s 3/4 time signature to become something of a dance floor hit.

Clube Da Esquina was originally the name of a collective - literally the “club on the corner”. As an avid record collector this record was the jumping off point for getting deeper into Brazilian music, Nascimento and Borges aside - the music of Beto Guedes, Wagner Tiso, Robertinho Silva and Nelson Angelo helped reinforce in me that the world of Tropicália is a spiritual home.

While it was the love of rhythm that first brought me to this record, I think it’s actually more an album of melody, harmony and texture. However, like all the best music, the rhythm of the culture pervades and seduces, no matter how soft or subtle. Rhythm remains the heartbeat.