Dianogah – Millions of Brazilians

Dianogah
Millions of Brazilians

I’ve been a rather large fan of Dianogah ever since their first full length, As Seen From Above, which came out on Ohio Gold a number of years ago. The band formed back in 1995 in Chicago, IL and have released three full lengths and a handful of EPs to date. They have made quite a name for themselves in the past few years touring Europe and South America as well as the US playing with such bands as Shellac, June of ’44, Don Caballero, Hum, The For Carnation, Blonde Redhead, Rachel’s, and The Shipping News.
The trio patents their unique instrumental sound by consisting of only two bass guitars and drums. However, all three musicians put a spin on traditionally based rhythmic instruments and force them to become lead parts playing incredibly catchy and addicting melodies. Each Dianogah release keeps getting better, and the instruments become more intertwined, working together to form either lush melodies or spastic highly rhythmic jams. The year 2000 saw the release of Dianogah’s Battle Champions, which was produced by Steve Albini and really captured the band’s true and accurate live sound, nothing more and nothing less. Battle Champions did quite well by getting many good write-ups as well as charting high on college radio. However, with 2002’s Millions of Brazilians the band decided to progress by focusing on having a more produced and developed sound. They decided to enlist Jon McEntire (of Tortoise, The Sea and Cake, etc) to produce and shape the album in ways that were unconventional compared with their previous albums. The result was a success, and MOB turned into a lush post-rock masterpiece. The songs are rich and much fuller sounding. New instruments were added to fatten up the sound and make the melodies more substantial. These include the addition of vibrato-laden electric guitar, Fender Bass VI, piano, synthesizers, Hammond Organ, and bass clarinet. In addition to these new and exciting instruments (a first for Dianogah) is the fact that they enlisted one of my favorite musicians, Rachel Grimes of the neo-classical post-rock group Rachel’s, to play piano on the album. Jon McEntire also makes appearances on the album as well.
The first track on the record, “Wrapping the Lamp, Sir,” is a memorable tune with a gorgeous intertwining bass melody. Crisp and precise drumming follows in followed by saturated organ in the background as a more or less drone. All of the parts work extremely effectively. The bass guitars play mostly on the high end, forming distinct harmonies between themselves. The track is addicting and definitely calls for repeated listens. The ending of the song is equally as pleasant, coming in at full force with bass chords that are hypnotically beautiful. “Maria, Which Has Got Her Heart Completely Fucked Up” has the very traditional Dianogah sound with bass playing more rhythmic qualities. This song reminds me of the Battle Champions type of material where it is not very produced but yet it works very well. The beginning is mostly staccato with each bass playing sharp and jolting parts. The drumming again is precise and clear and works well for the song. “The Smallest Chilean” comes up next and again is similar the to the previous track, relying more on rhythm than melody while still remaining interesting and intense. The addition of distorted bass and weird off-kilter sounds in the background makes for a tune that is darker than usual.
“American Dipper” is definitely one of the strongest on the record. It starts with a brief harmonic interlude and eventually develops into electric guitar with vibrato as well as piano. Rachel Grimes plays the same beautiful piano part that she plays in Rachel’s, and it complements the bass parts extremely well. The electric guitar part plays an extremely memorable melody that is hauntingly beautiful in combination with the piano. This track demonstrates just how far Dianogah has progressed musically since their last album.
“Flat Panda” combines both the highly rhythmic qualities with the newer more produced sound, incorporating vibrato guitar into the mix. “Take Care, Olaf” starts out with the same type of bass chords as usual but the chorus is extremely full with more of Rachel Grimes’ piano work. The song grabs the listener with it’s extremely melodic melody. This is one of the best tracks on the album. “Piñata Oblongata” adds synths to the mix, adding a strange aura to the music, overlapping amazingly catchy intertwining high-end bass guitar. “Goto Dengo Loses the War” adds bass clarinet on top of high-end bass, which is a unique sound that is very effective. “Pitufina” is reminiscent of older Dianogah sounding more stripped down to the bare elements but still remaining an interesting listen. The last track on the album, “The Sky Came Down to the Rooftops,” starts out with odd sounding effects laden guitar while taking it down a few notches. This is indeed a more introspective and quieter Dianogah, which is less about being all in your face and more about lulling you with hypnotic melodies.
Millions of Brazilians is indeed a breakthrough for Dianogah and their typical sound. The band has showed they are than capable of adding new dimensions to their old formula and still remaining true to their roots. The additional production work shows what a musical genius Jon McEntire truly is. It will be interesting to see where the band goes from here, whether they go back to their earlier sound or if they enter a new sound completely. I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing the band live, but others have told me they are equally as fantastic. MOB will make a nice addition to your collection and will be the perfect album to relax to, drive to, or fall asleep with. If you are not familiar with the group this album will make more of an impression on you than any of their earlier material will. MOB will most certainly make my top 10 list for the best releases of this year.