Samba is a music genre that isn’t often heard in the realm of chipmusic. From chords with some complexity to rhythmic layers, I can understand this isn’t the easiest thing to tackle with very limited hardware. While still possible to really capture the spirit of the genre, it needs a wider range of sounds than ones typically provided in either hardware or software. Therefore, of all the artists out there, it makes perfect sense that The J. Arthur Keenes band would come along and provide us with a cover album of their favorite samba songs that’s warm and full of the same quality we’ve all known to expect and love. If you don’t know why that was an exciting statement, it’s time for you to click read more.
‘Em Português’ is an album that you can tell was made with as much love as it was talent. You can hear that staple J. Arthur Keenes Band vocal filter, warmth, and retrograded, garage-era aesthetic while still capturing the spirit of the original tracks. There are some cases, like with Réu Confesso, that the direction changes just enough from the original to give it a new perspective to the listener that would be familiar with both. For instance, it took me a few listens to pick up on the 70’s soul aesthetic that came from the original behind that swing beat and 8th hats.
Considering that this is an album that consists of Samba with some vibes from the Pagode subgenre, it’s no surprise that a majority of the album consists of bouncy music that feels as cheery as it often sounds. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised with Até Quem Sabe being on this list. A very soft and almost solemn piece that dips into textural subtleties in the chord padding used, where if you listen carefully you can hear the layered sine or triangle waves evolve from just sustained notes to that choppy overlapping sine wave. The track gives off a very similar sound for the chord padding while still adding to the atmosphere before the track falls into what I can only describe as “60’s sci-fi arbitrary bleep arpeggios” as it fades out and concludes the album.
At first, I thought that this was entirely a cover album. It wasn’t until I looked at the credits of the album that I realized that Boa Tarde was an original track. I originally thought the cavaquinho (p. “ka-va-keen-yo”, sounds like a higher-pitched ukulele) was for added atmosphere and to properly capture the vibe of the song. Suddenly, listening to it again, you can pick up on some of the Keenes composition idiosyncrasies that help bring out tension before a resolution and callbacks to little jingles and interludes that feel new with how sparingly we hear them.
This album is absolutely worth the attention you’ve given this article, if you’ve made it this far. This brings me back to picking up some music from when I was growing up in a city with a large and densely-populated Brazilian community. This album will absolutely be paired best with a coxinha, pao de queijo, feijoada, guarana soda or cachaça if you feel like it. You can pick up Em Português on The J. Arthur Keenes Band’s bandcamp today.