Note to reader: Curumin performs the world’s music.
Don’t confuse this with ‘world music’, an overly commercialized genre where musicians plays indigenous music from their native land (essentially just non-Western folk music). Curumin’s musical style is more that of a shapeshifter, plucking material from cultures around the globe and integrating the spoils into thoughtfully constructed melodies.
This amorphism is not that surprising, considering that Curumin (a.k.a. Luciano Nakata Albuquerque) is born of Japanese and Spanish descent and raised in Brazil. On “JapanPopShow”, his sophomore followup to 2005’s “Achados e Perdidos,” Curumin once again transplants his amalgamated heritage into his music, effortlessly incorporating a smorgasbord of styles from bossa nova to hip-hop.
The title track is a Latinized reggae jam infused with Rastafarian ideology, interrupted mid-way through by a pot-laden exaltation of drugs (unless “wisdom tea” is something utterly different). This spiritual jam transitions into what is the most commercial-friendly song of the album, “Compacto.” Recalling the optimism of Curumin’s earlier hit, “Guerreiro,” “Compacto” presents a poptastic melody alongside playful turntabling. The song is a feel-good anthem best enjoyed while playing soccer in the streets of Sao Paulo.
The next track, “Kyoto,” shifts seamlessly away from samba funk into the realm of hip-hop. Accompanied by rapper and labelmate Blackalicious, who lets loose a random but fervid diatribe against the establishment, Curumin produces a smoothed-out beat with equal parts Brooklyn and Brazil.
Throughout the album, Curumin picks out genres like apples from a tree and showcases his musical prowess. He covers California rock in “Magrela Fever,” French art-electronica in “Mistério Stereo,” Bossa Nova in “Sambito (Totaru Shock),” and trip-hop on a number of musical interludes such as the chill out “Saída Bangú.”
Curumin sounds comfortable and satisfied in all of these divergent musical forms. This might be because he plays and produces the brunt of the music on the album, exhibiting his multi-instrumentalism on guitar, keyboard, drums and vocals.
One of the most exciting tracks on the album, “Caixa Preta,” appears to parallel the style of another genre bender, M.I.A., in its assortment of booms and chaotic riffs. The overlying melody of the song is just so pleasantly infectious that it makes for a Brazilian crowd-pleaser on the dancefloor.
Yet Curumin’s talent for pervasiveness might also be the album’s undoing. Although the singles by themselves are immensely gratifying, there is no structure to “JapanPopShow” that binds these elements together into a concise package. It might be that Curumin has extended himself so far into the broad musical spectrum that he has lost his foundation in the art of the LP.
Regardless, “JapanPopShow” is a collection of enjoyable and genre defying tracks that solidify Curumin’s status as the Zelig of the musical world.