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Boogarins - Sombrou Dúvida Music Album Reviews

The Brazilian psych band transition from the oft-playful homage and stage-ready jams of previous releases to a serious attempt at tight, kaleidoscopic grooves.

The word psychedelia originates from the Greek “the animating principle of the universe”— or whatever one calls that metaphysical sum greater than the total of its parts. Boogarins, hugely popular in their native Brazil, are one of several modern torch-bearers of psych music, playing a strain that sounds of tropicália and musicians who unselfconsciously noodle. On their latest album Sombrou Dùvida, they transition from the oft-playful homage and stage-ready jams of previous releases to a serious attempt at tight, kaleidoscopic grooves, and the results are akin to a pleasant, cerebral trip—a little more potent than the edibles sold from wagons in Dolores Park, but nothing quite Leary-caliber.

Lyrically, many of the songs (translated here from Portuguese) reference subversion, engulfment, and trance, coupling with seamless, driving instrumentation that mimics a hallucinogenic trip. “There is a dazzle of the fools/Fake and splendid/It is that which already engulfs you/I am suspect of the habits/I only trust the avidly living,” sings Dino Almeida at the end of the title track, whose name means “shadow or doubt.” These liminal spaces—shadows, doubts, and states of mind—are the record’s main concern, and its instrumentation is often an interplay between sunny, jangling melodies and synths that border the abrasive. This toggle between poles also extends to the band’s sensibilities, and at its best, Sombrou Dùvida toes the line between accessible pop and sonic experimentation, gussying up standout tracks like “Dislexia ou Transe” with wobbly distortion and a menagerie of interwoven riffs.

But where “Dislexia ou Transe’s” ratcheting build and oddball flourishes deliver on the promise of a trance, tracks like “A Tradição” travel at a sleepier pace. It covers well-tread psychedelic terrain without much novelty, and if anything, it dilutes the impact of the songs that bookend it, driving as they are. “Nós,” which immediately follows, is a clinic in layered sounds, a pastiche of discord that flirts with outright noise but rests just inside the confines of a brooding pop song.

Boogarins aren’t reinventing the genre, but like 2013’s As Plantas Que Curam or 2017’s home-recorded Lá Vem a Morte (which translates to “here comes death,” more straightforward than shadowy), this album expresses the group’s devotion to this particular wall of sound, pioneered by fellow countrymen Tom Zé, Os Mutantes, and others embroiled in Brazil’s late-’60s political tumult. On standout tracks, like “Passeio” and “Dislexia ou Transe,” they’re modernizing this quintessential 20th-century style with contemporary embroideries that feels distinctly in the spirit of their musical forebears. Played outrageously loud, as it ought to be, with the windows open and a joint rolled, Sombrou Dùvida is transportive, even if the only place you’re going is to an appreciation of a righteous shred under dissolving synths.

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