Satwa – Satwa (1973)

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SATWA (s/t)
Self-released 1973
Reissued on Time-Lag Records (019)

I just heard, a week late, that local undergronud semigod Lula Cortes passed away. An important figure in the “udigrudi” (Portuguese bastardization of the word ‘underground’ and used exclusively to refer to the psychedelic scene of Recife, Pernambuco, in the early 70s), he is best known outside Brazil for making the legendary Paêbiru album with Zé Ramalho. Ramalho would get more and more mainstream and increasingly just plain awful: for evidence I refer you to recent unlistenable albums dedicated entirely to covering Bob Dylan (with bad attempts at translating the untranslatable poet Zimmerman), and — perhaps more shamefully – butchering his own countryman and fellow northeasterns like Jackson do Pandeiro or Luiz Gonzaga. Lula Cortes, on the other hand, at least stayed true to his own weirdness, regardless of how you feel about his actual music. He also made a respected name for himself as a painter. Below is a write-up I posted a long time ago (somewhere else that was not here) that may possibly upset devoted fans of this fan or of Lula. I was planning on posting it here someday, but there were too many better records out there to talk about and listen to… Still definitely worth a spin, though, and better to have it in LOSSLESS than in some awful low-bitrate version..

An album that is more fun, in my biased opinion, is his Rosa de Sangue from 1980. Just say the word, and it shall be done…

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(old pre-death review)
In my personal opinion, this record (like a lot of obscure psych and psych-folk) is a bit overrated. It’s cool enough, and psych-heads will probably love it, but it doesn’t get me too terribly excited. It’s obscurity makes for a good story, and places like Dusted Magazine can make romanticized statements about how they sang in wordless vocalization because of the military dictatorship. Bullshit. Milton Nascimento eliminated the lyrics from his album `Milagre dos Peixes` (also 1973) because the government sought to censor them, and so he sang in wordless vocalizations. Satwa sings in wordless vocalizations because they don’t have all that much to say to say, or were too stoned to write any articulate lyrics. Some of it is very beautiful, and has a nice vibe, but also no more or less special than various free-form acoustic jams I myself have participated in as a musician, with the exception that Lula Cortes had built his own odd acoustic sitar-guitar instrument. This was recorded in 1973 and hardly anyone heard it. It’s also worth mentioning that this record is impossible to find in any form in the city it was originally released in (Recife, Pernambuco), and changes hands elsewhere for far more money than the music is actually worth, so this is quite a rarity.

Includes full artwork at 300 dpi in TIF and JPG, m3u, log, cue, and a spliff.

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Satwa biography
Brazilian 70’s dreamlike, acid-folk guitar project. It’s largely an acoustic guitar orientated “trip”. Their eponymous album (a private press LP originally released in 1973) provides emotional, luminous Latin psych vibes with omnipresent “raga” harmonies. The duet is composed by Lula Cortez (on guitar and popular Morocco sitar) and Lailson de Holanda Cavalcanti (12 strings guitar, voice). One composition feature Robertinho Do Recife on electric guitar (see picture on the right). Constantly imaginative with dense buzzing ragas, this one is definitely essential for fans of progressive folk, eastern sonorites and peaceful ambiences. An other highway to Heaven!

“Written, recorded and released just as Brazil’s military dictatorship reached the climax of its long black arc, the one and only album by Satwa is a divinely subtle protest. Now issued for the first time in America through the venerable Time-Lag Records in Maine and the stewardship of freeform fixture Erika Elder, Satwa, often cited as Brazil’s first independent record, is a mellow starburst of acoustic jangle.
— Prog Archives
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Formed after the return of Lula Côrtes and Lailson from their respective foreign excursions – the former a beardo home after the requisite Moroccan sojourn, the latter a young long-hair back from the States – Satwa lasted only a year, perhaps due to their differing stripes. Lailson was from the verdant former Dutch colony of Pernanbuco, while Côrtes hailed from the wild badlands of Paraiba. But for 11 days in January 1973 the pair jammed cross-legged and produced the folk trance gems that adorn this self-titled debut.

At a time when censors caused newspapers to run cake recipes on their front pages in place of rejected news stories, Lailson only lets the occasional throat drone slip through his lips. Largely void of voice and word, the songs – Côrtes plucking steely leads from his sitar while Lailson’s 12-string thrums crystalline chords – are loose and lovely. The sole interference in these glistening arabesques is the hoary electric fretwork of one Robertinho on “Blues do Cachorro Muito Louco,” the most explicitly fried track. Otherwise, Côrtes and Lailson are left to experiment in musty silence. Seemingly taped live, each track is a dry documentation of the duo’s gently rambling improvisations. Far from the recombinant psychedelia of tropicalismo that reigned over the pre-hippie underground in Brazil’s bustling metropolises five years earlier, Satwa play bed peace bards. In double-mono, or fake stereo, Satwa is raw, untreated mentalism translated into pure songflow. At times exhausted and dusty – “Atom” – or archaically splendorous – “Valse Dos Cogumelos” – the duo’s spiraling scrolls etched in rustic timbres unfurl gracefully.

Côrtes, now a graying painter, would go on to record the more explicitly weird Paêbirú (also recently reissued) with Zé Ramalho. A concept album about extraterrestrials in Paraiba’s arid backwoods, it had long been anointed a masterpiece of the era. After dabbling in rock outfits, Lailson broke into the mainstream as a newspaper cartoonist, a job he has kept to this day. Neither were or will probably ever be Satwa again, but during those few days and from now on, Satwa is a quiet triumph.

-Bernardo Rondeau, dustedmagazine.com

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