As much as we identify certain sounds with certain places, one of the most beautiful things about music is that it travels well; that a styled forged from a unique local culture can still speak to someone on the other side of the world, who can in turn add their particular dialect to the conversation. In the internet age, regional strains become global trends almost overnight, making it difficult to discern where an artist might be from just by listening to them. Take up-and-coming duo Ninos Du Brasil, who, between their name and predilection toward the irrepressible rhythms of carnival, you might reasonably assume to be based in, or perhaps émigrés from, Brazil, when in fact they hail from somewhere far less colorful and exciting.
“I wouldn’t call love what I feel about this place, but certainly I admit it is very stimulating,” said singer/percussionist/mastermind Nico Vascellari, describing Vittorio Veneto, the small Northern Italian town he calls home, to Vice magazine, “It is stimulating because there is nothing stimulating here.” Foggy, grey and walled in by mountains, the sleepy city of roughly 28,000 is a far cry from the bustling favelas of Rio de Janeiro, or even the nearby cosmopolitan center of Milan. The very fact that there is so little to do is what led a young Vascellari to start making things happen on his own, beginning with hardcore punk shows before graduating to performance art happenings, gallery exhibitions and festivals, all while continuing to pursue diverse musical projects.
Along with fellow drummer Nicolò Fortuni, Vascellari formed Ninos Du Brasil, debuting with a self-titled EP in 2011. Their first full-length, Muito N.D.B. followed a year later, but they’ve really been turning heads with the release of their new Novos Mistérios, the most mature distillation of their eclectic, international sound. Starting with high-energy Brazilian batucada, the duo embellishes its frantic, organic polyrhythms with pulsing minimal techno, industrial textures and punk aggression. On paper that might not seem all that appealing, there have been a million clumsy attempts to update more traditional, so-called “world music” styles by goosing them with some generic dance floor fodder over the years, but, in practice, Ninos Du Brasil nails the sense of movement and urgency shared by its various influences.
Beyond being musically dizzying, there’s also a delirious visual element to Novos Mistérios, which comes courtesy of Spanish experimental and documentary filmmaker Carlos Casas, whom the duo commissioned to make a video for each track on the album. His hyperactive, stroboscopic collages of old Brazilian movies and other found footage perfectly match the lively kinetic energy of the music, as well as its foreboding undercurrent of dread. In less skilled hands, the project could easily come off as somewhat ethnocentric, like they’re borrowing Brazilian elements merely for some corny idea of exoticism or to make some ham-fisted political point, but ultimately Vascellari and Fortuni don’t employ them for any social commentary or superficial tropical color, but because they’re funky no matter where you come from.