A trick, an imperceptible lens change or some such small mechanic miracle, and the pastel beach where Florinda
Bolkan stands is transformed, before our very eyes, into the surface of the moon. Suddenly, two astronauts appear at
the far end of the beach. Horrified, Florinda makes a break for it – but the moment she begins to run, the movie itself
loses speed, representing her character’s desperate and ultimately vain attempt at escaping in unsettling slow motion.
This sequence, the last of a regrettably obscure Italian movie from the 1970s known to English speaking audiences as
Footprints on the Moon, is the first buoy that comes to me as I rack my brain after possible visual analogies for Praia,
Mariano Marovatto’s latest album. What this succinct and impressive outing offers us is a somber revision of the beach
so sweetly evoked in his first offering, Aquele Amor Nem Me Fale. In this first and charming effort, we see Mariano
working with motifs, both melodic and lyrical, commonly identified with bossa nova – this beach that is only hinted at and
never actually named throughout his first songs is a beach tailor made for romantic strolls, serene panoramas, loves of
young people. In Praia, this panorama comes to, or better still, at us, in a lunar guise – emptied out, black and white –
the sweetness that sometimes manages to trickle down from the songs has a vague, but undeniably morbid aftertaste.
The beach, here, is claustrophobic. Even if it were immense, even if it stretched out as far as the eye can see – it would
still be entirely confined to Mariano’s marbles. An island beach, a castaway’s beach – a loneliness populated by spectral
voices, ghostly squeaks, dissonances, sounds whose origins we cannot quite place.
The boat sinks and Mariano is unable to rescue his treasured guitar.
A new tactic for handling experience makes itself necessary – and even if this newfound way of singing, writing and
recording songs occasionally allows for tenderness, that is certainly not its strongest asset. The electronic flourishes that
sparingly decorated the tight organic whole of Aquele Amor Nem Me Fale are now the principal players – they have
become something like the very structure of his songs, which we can’t really categorize any longer as songs – the many
segues and vignettes often play like a castaway’s musical remembrances, calling into question our own preconceptions
of what a “song” (especially a pop song) should be. The brevity and heterogeneous quality which characterize Praia
serve a clear purpose. They stand for the fulmination of Crusoe when, after many years living on an island by himself,
he is confronted by a sole human footprint on the sand. They are the equivalent of Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de
Andrade’s brief and devastating statement that “Islands lose men”, featured in his poem Mundo Grande. It is both
experience and commentary on the islands (apartment, office, studio) into which we are continuously cornered and only
infrequently capable of communication.
Those who had the opportunity of listening to Mariano’s take on Incapacidade de Amar, a little-known song written by
Cazuza and Leoni, more or less knew what to expect of his sophomore outing. In his revamping of the song, Mariano’s
voice already suggests an iffy intimacy, a nakedness “laminated” by the many layers of strident, unpredictable noises
“on top of” which he sings – it is as though someone had tapped the room of a man who lives alone and is in the habit of
singing to himself – so as to pass the time, so as not to despair. Mariano’s vocals on his arrangement of Incapacidade
de Amar are as touching as they are disturbing – and when his voice does appear in Praia, in songs such as A Mutante,
Vidraça and If, one has the same impression of uncomfortable nearness. It is curious to note that Mariano’s voice,
drenched as it is in this sci-fi ambiance, should sound so much more intimate and organic now than it did on his first
However, in Praia, we frequently lose Mariano’s voice, which is then replaced by a range of robotic voices pared down
to the very “process” of singing, or by the sweet voice of Alice Sant’Anna, who was already a guest vocalist in Aquele
Amor Nem Me Fale. In the narrative arc we may attribute to the album, Alice’s voice is a protagonist in two decisive
moments. In the song Praia, she sounds distant, very obviouslyrecorded, without musical accompaniment. It’s the very
footprint Crusoe is faced with – or maybe the intrusion of a painful memory (a bitter hope) on the unbearable day-to-day
life one is forced to lead in the island. In Botões, Alice resurfaces, musicalized, singing with the delicateness of a
Claudine Longet a song whose lyrics seem to point to a total resignation to the island – they can take everything away
from me but the self, thinking, “my thinking”. The fact that her voice has a crystalline sweetness takes us back to the
idylls of childhood – and this is where the morbid aftertaste I talked about makes itself known. Is childhood the only exit
out of the island? How can we go about leaving it without, so to speak, going mad?
Yes, there are many voices – however, it is important to highlight that these are all voices inside one head – scraps of
melodies, shattered discourse, lullabies that were not sung to us when we needed them the most. The pretty indigenous
lullaby that follows Botões and closes Praia, for instance, would probably sound silky and affirmative – were it not for the
way Mariano chose to present it, making it sound like a Midi and thus evoking the slightly unsettling sound of the
“electronic” key chains that are sold in Rio’s downtown open-markets, or the melodies that seem to waft from ice-cream
There is much more to say about this strange and fantastic offering from Mariano – I can only hope others with a more
refined musical vocabulary will do it soon. On my part, I can only say that Praia, which started off as a kind of songsfrom-
a-room project – Mariano’s original plan was to compose, execute and record a whole album in one month –
inspired by the works of Broadcast, David Sylvian, Laurel Halo and many others, ended up gaining entirely specific local
dimensions, weaving into its glitches and loops the sense of entrapment, tension and disquiet that we all started to live
with, in varying degrees of intensity, in recent times.
Maybe the Rio de Janeiro featured in Aquele Amor Nem Me Fale is no longer possible. Nowadays, it seems that we are
invited to at least one farewell party every weekend. Those who remain, lock themselves in the bathroom and sing –
they sing anything that comes to their mind – they sing so as not to despair.
Ismar Tirelli Neto, October 2013