Maluco is a project of people on their way from one place to another: Argenis Brito of Senor Coconut sings, while Max Loderbauer (Sun Electric) and Pier Bucci (Mambotur) make the beats. Loderbauer has recently been collaborating with Moritz von Oswald and Vladislav Delay in what we can only hope will become a durable trio (Von Oswald suffered a mild stroke in October). The group also exists in between novelty and seriousness. The record is loungey and probably supposed to be chill, but it’s actually very awkward sounding. This dorky tension is what makes it worthwhile, even if it’s awful at the same time. Something about foreigners singing in English.
On “Passport,” Brito sing/talks, “Waiting in the line, going through the gate, this worry’s on my mind. I don’t care. Someone might not like where I come from. Someone might not like where I was born.” It’s a strangely coherent, political sentiment for this downtempo style and only gets stranger when it goes from speech to melodic refrain. “Let me tell you something,” he concludes in sung verse, “I am of this world.” Brito is Venezualan; like his bandmates he’s now a Berliner; he sings in English. The double distancing captures the universal awkwardness of being a resident alien, living as a fish on land, always seeming like a punchline. “It’s not funny,” he claims on “Sam.”
Permanent foreignness means sometimes understanding a place better than its residents while never being allowed to act like one understands it at all. Maluco’s sublime/icky vibe sits right on this edge. The music, sometimes trad dub, other times overlaid with nouveau chirp, seems not to sit well with itself and conflicts even more with the vox. The last track, a cover of the Eno/Cale collaboration “River,” sums this up by mimicking the exuberance of cover bands in the tropics while sounding utterly artificial.
Awkwardness – tension – is nothing to be scoffed at. It provokes anxiety, which Freud called the only true emotion that we have. It makes us want to run away. Making such difficult easy listening is a brave thing when people are trapped in their headphones and looking to get irate. Right on.