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World Music Features

Kassin +2

By Chris Nickson
Published January 28, 2008

The trio of Moreno Veloso, Alexandre Kassin, and Domenico Lancelloti has just completed a trilogy of albums (each appended with +2) where the band name changes as each member takes his turn writing music and overseeing the production process. No matter who is charge, this is one of the edgiest outfits on the Brazilian music scene.

Some musical collaborations happen out of necessity, while others seem to materialize quite by accident. About eight years ago, when budding songwriter and guitarist Moreno Veloso was asked to organize a gig at a modern art museum in São Paulo, at first he had no idea what to do other than reach out to his two close friends, Alexandre Kassin and Domenico Lancelloti, who he figured might be able to help him arrange some music.

That was the beginning of the “+2” trio, which led to the making of Veloso +2’s Music Typewriter in 2001, and Domenico +2’s Sincerely Hot in 2004. Each album relied on Brazilian bossa, samba and other classic forms for their inspiration, but also plugged into the digital realm, giving the resulting hybrid a playfully adventurous feel and modern electronic edge. It’s taken a few years, but the last part of the +2 trilogy has finally arrived with Kassin +2’s Futurismo, which gets its official stateside release on Luaka Bop this April after being released abroad in 2007.

“We all do many things,” explains Alexandre Kassin from his Rio de Janeiro home. “We’ve all been working. Moreno is a physicist. Before Domenico’s album, he was finishing his degree and he needed to complete the nuclear labs [exams]. We only do the band when we want—around our jobs. When we feel it’s time, we start together again.”

Kassin is certainly busy enough—a man of many pursuits. Apart from his extensive production credits, which include Brazilian crossover stars Marisa Monte and Bebel Gilberto, he has also played bass with the legendary Caetano Veloso (Moreno’s father), worked in various rock bands, and released an album of Game Boy blips called Free U.S.A. (Ping Pong) under the name Artificial, “where I also sang falsetto like Prince. It was very extreme.”

Eventually it was time for the +2 disc, and Futurismo belies its title by delivering a surprisingly retro feel to much of the music, which encompasses sensual, laid-back bossa nova and subtly danceable samba. Kassin insists the atmosphere of the album wasn’t intentional. "It may be because I was doing the songs in my head, but I think the bossa nova and samba songs on the album have a very modern approach. So it’s retro, but we’re not trying to be that way. The songs were in my head for a long time. Before I worked with Moreno, I was in a rock band, so I think the songs really took me away from all that.”

In essence, it’s an album that reflects many of the facets of Kassin’s home, from the sands of the beaches to the impoverished hillside favelas—Rio in all its glory and grit. “The last albums I’d composed had very straight lines,” Kassin points out, “and I don’t always have places for the range of songs I’ve been writing. So here, every song is a different kind of song, but in Rio if you see a band, normally they don’t play a straight style. Somehow that feel made it a very ‘Carioca’ [native to Rio] album. New York, L.A., Chicago—if you go record shopping there you can find a huge range of different styles, too. Some cities are just into music. My brother was a DJ, too—that’s how I got my record collection. He played everything from African music to New Wave.”

Futurismo is quite deliberately under-produced and intimate without being lo-fi. Kassin wanted it that way because “everybody expected the album to be very well-produced, but when we started, the only thing I knew is that I wanted it based on the songs. I didn’t want a modern sound, I wanted it to sound like we were playing in the living room, like the old albums. That’s why it sounds retro, because I wanted it to sound live. I wanted to focus on the songs and the band. We actually did a few rehearsals—the first time we’ve done that before recording—so we could have the dynamics of playing together with a loose feel.”

As with the other two albums, a few guests were brought in for this outing. One of Kassin's greatest joys on this one was t