Music for Music: Brazilian Girls
Music for Music: Time Is On Their Side
by Dan Ursini © 2018
The Brazilian Girls are a brave, fun band—longtime dance/jazz/poptronica practitioners blessed with nonpareil artistic stamina. They have just released their first album in ten years, Let’s Make Love. Its exceptional energy and polish results from vibrant collaborative chemistry. Time is on their side.
As you may know, none of them are Brazilian and only one is a woman. Keyboard player Didi Gutman is from Argentina; the excellent rhythm section with bass guitarist Jesse Murphy and drummer Aaron Johnston is from the USA. Lead vocalist Sabina Sciubba was born in Rome, grew up in Germany, is fluent in six languages, and, as chief lyricist, switches among them freely.
They have always had a gift for eclecticism. Though jazz shows up in the background of all four members, they surfaced as a jam dance band. But cabaret elements show up, as does everything else in the cosmopolitan vibes of a city like New York, where their band formed around 2003. They took a break in 2010 but resumed in 2012, and remain a unit with their original collaborative telepathy intact.
Since their inception, the Brazilian Girls have addressed the intermittent release problem of their albums by steadily peppering YouTube with videos. A 2005 posting of a video for “Lazy Lover” assured a pleasant notoriety:
Yet they also posted songs dealing with timeless issues like free will in “Die Gedanken Sind Frei (Thoughts Are Free).”
That range continues with the 13 originals on Let’s Make Love. Early live versions of many songs have long been available on YouTube:
BRAZILIAN GIRLS: Live @ The Ottobar, Baltimore, 8/8/2015 (Part 1)
As such, I heard a few of these songs dozens of times prior to the release of the official album version. The experience was Déjà Vu Reformatted—a feckless coincidence of access.
The album showcases studio renditions with highly detailed keyboard parts perfect for these tight, bright pop songs. They also feature Didi Gutman’s solo style—based not on melodies, but on just a couple chordal notes intriguingly reworked so they resemble percussion effects from the slightly distant future. Other strengths derive from Sabina Sciubba’s low, convincing vocals. Though she employs an onstage persona based on wild outfits and theatrical props, her lyrics come from another place—the deep privacy of her interior life. She uses the spare language of someone in a daze, tallying the perplexing ambiguities of romantic connection:
You and me are not walking together going through the park
You and me are now walking together
Not working together
Part of the accepted wisdom of pop music is that a band with talent to burn is a band that burns out right away. Brazilian Girls has always been a band with talent to burn in every direction. Yet they have resisted the usual impulse to self-destruct. Now as before, they make new music that is incendiary. And that is an operational definition of real wisdom.
Dan Ursini and his wife Valerie live in Oak Park, Illinois. Over the years he has done many kinds of writing. Ursini served as the first resident playwright for the Steppenwolf Theatre of Chicago (1978-1983); he worked for ten years as a Contributing Editor for Puerto Del Sol magazine ; he wrote performance art pieces presented at Chicago venues as Club Lower Links and Club Dreamerz. Ursini wrote radio theatre presented on NPR in the early 1990s. Throughout all this, he has worked full-time at the Law Library at DePaul University where for a decade he also wrote articles for Dialogue, the DePaul law school’s alumni publication . In addition, he was active for some years as a bass guitarist in various Chicago blues/gospel/funk/lounge configurations. Currently Ursini is working on his latest novel. A play he wrote with Robert Rothman, A Mensch Among Men, a fictionalized account of real-life Jewish Chicago-area gangsters, recently had two staged readings in Chicago. Dan can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org