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Ben LaMar Gay - Confetti in the Sky Like Fireworks (This Is Bate Bola OST) Music Album Reviews

On his soundtrack for the film This Is Bate-Bola, the Chicago cornetist, keyboardist, and composer summons the dread and excitement of the lesser-known Rio festival.

Far from the beaches, big floats, bikinis, and festivities that define Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival, there is the Bate-Bola. A more raucous affair, wholly ignored by the media and middle and upper classes of Brazil, the Bate-Bola is the celebration of the working class and the poor, living in the city’s favelas. Most descriptions of the festival allude to fever dreams and monsters, which hints at the hallucinatory fun and underlying violence of the affair. Costumes can take a year to make, and each turma–or bate-bola group– boasts its own booming soundsystem. In North America, it might bring to mind the Gathering of the Juggalos invaded by Mardi Gras Indians, but that doesn’t quite encapsulate the madness. “The Bate-Bola costume has an energy unlike any other,” says a voice in Ben Holman and Neirin Jones’ short film, This is Bate-Bola. “When we put it on, we get that cold feeling in our stomach...It’s like something from another world.”

In scoring This is Bate-Bola, Chicago cornetist, keyboardist, composer Ben LaMar Gay had his work cut out for him. Gay lived in Brazil for a number of years, and parts of last year’s lovely and eclectic Downtown Castles Can Never Block the Sun alit on bossa nova and baile funk. But on Confetti In The Sky Like Fireworks, outside of a few explosive moments, Gay conveys the sound of Brazil via smeared abstraction rather than explicit homage. The soundtrack opens with a backmasked song, as if attempting to plumb a hazy bacchanalian recollection, hinting that what’s to come won’t be sun-warmed and bright, but rather chilly and haunted.

Within the confines of a soundtrack, Gay ranges wildly. Clattering percussion mixes with flickering synth lines and dark drones, and lording above it all is “Nos Reunimos Em Fantasias,” a 14-minute epic that’s by turns ethereal and disquieting, as if David Lynch opted to film in the narrow alleys of a favela rather than along Mulholland Drive. The title loosely translates as “We Meet in Fantasies,” and as such, it toggles the thin line between dream and nightmare. Gay lets the sounds here expand slowly, allowing the open, twilit spaces to fill with dread and uncertainty. As often as Gay earns comparisons to the likes of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and other jazz figures, he’s in a rarefied ambient space here, closer to the likes of William Basinski or Tim Hecker.

The rest of the soundtrack contains mostly short cues and interludes, brief fragments that heighten the charge of on-screen images but feel slight when reduced to audio. “O Rugido” is a muffled rustle that darkens some of the film’s footage, yet it becomes all but inaudible if you’re listening with a car window rolled down. Mercifully, the clanging alarm-clock din of “Casos De Vidro Soam Como Sinos” recedes after two minutes. One of the set’s strongest moments –the buzzing, beat-centric “Kingdom Come/ Strong”– vanishes at the one-minute mark, just before it can burst into full bloom. Closer “A Saída” pulls a hard left, reminding us that Gay is equally adept at baile funk. Full of queasy bass and a with a rowdy MC hollering atop the beat, it shows that Gay can also match that feeling of the Bate-Bola costume, balancing cold sensation with jolts of unexpected energy.

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