Batucada Sound Machine – Don’t Keep Silent (Riot Music)

THERE’S A PROBLEM afflicting most bands of this type – a problem that results in crap albums. The thing is, great party bands are brilliant on the night, but that excitement seldom translates to the recorded medium. More often than not, any recordings are better seen as souvenirs to remind the fan of the good time the band can elicit on a good night, but in and of itself, the recording is worthless.
I’m happy to report, then, that the second album by Auckland’s Batucada Sound Machine is a successful stand-in for the real thing, and given the group’s lengthening CV of international dates, it’s not likely you could afford them for your party, in any case.
Don’t Keep Silent, aside from its awful name, is a solid piece of work. Its eleven songs (presumably self-written? I can’t find any attribution on the cover) won’t trouble any awards, but they do what they set out to do: make a stage, and set the scene for the group’s churning grooves. They’re named as a 10-piece ensemble, but clearly there are many guest artists involved, and when the multiple percussion parts are combined with the horns, and the other instruments, it becomes an organic rhythm machine that even a couch kumara like myself can’t resist twitching to.
Batucada Sound Machine’s leader appears to be one Richard Setford, whose other project, Bannerman, also had a distinguished album of folksy Americana very recently. What a paradox: this chap was once involved in one of my least favourite Auckland bands, faux funk practitioners One Million Dollars, so it’s most curious (and pleasing) to see him flower on several different fronts, as both a singer/songwriter in Bannerman, and leader/mainman of such an impressive big party band as Batucada.
Theirs is a style that combines various strands of Latin-influenced music with hints of funk and dub, and at times I could almost convince myself I was listening to early Santana minus the electric guitar leads and pulsing electric organ. Of course, Santana never had a brass section, but rhythmically, the two have a similar energy.
It’s not a slick recording, but the sound engineer has captured this large ensemble well, in all its slightly ragged glory. Don’t get me wrong, they’re tight: it’s just that any big group with horns is going to be a slightly messy recording proposition, and I think they’ve got this about write. It’s neither a too-clean, sterile depiction of the group, or a messy rehearsal tape, but something that nicely captures some of the excitement generated by such a group.

Note: This album will be released LATE JANUARY 2012, so don’t bug your local record store until then! GARY STEEL
Music = 3.5/5
Sound = 3.5/5

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