Culture Briefing— Global


All the new books, music and films that are keeping us entertained this month.

Brazil, Music, Portugal, Thailand, Books, Films, Novels

Thinking ahead

Popular decisions aren’t always an audience’s choice. by ROBERT BOUND

I’m in two minds about focus groups. Not in the way the punchline to the joke might go: should I listen to my gut instinct or attend to the views of a representation of a typical cross-section to see if they can help? It’s more that I just don’t know if I know, you know?

I just got back from Brazil, a place you might imagine to be the dictionary definition of free-spirited passionata tv programming. Down there, after all, telenovelas are a religion, the opium of the…

  • Bat For Lashes returns with a platter you’ll applaud the more you play it. The tested dreamy pop tropes are there with added reduction: it seems that with THE HAUNTED MAN, Bat For Lashes has greater faith in her songwriting than her production team. A lovely record that sits slightly outside of time.

  • Efterklang emerge from their Copenhagen studio for their second outing. PIRIMADA is another grow-y thing that sounds made for autumn listening: breezy synths and reflective vocals echo in a sparer record that turns down the drums to soar a little higher.

  • Getting higher’s the name of Lee “Scratch” Perry’s game and he’s well suited to British dance pioneers The Orb for the same reason. THE OBSERVER IN THE STAR HOUSE is a jungle of rhythm, dub, psychedelic beats and is, in a very good way, a dirty dub uncle inviting you for tea and a smoke.

  • A different duet are Texan husband-and-wife The Mastersons who owe something to the country tradition of the domestic duet (George Jones & Tammy Wynette, Gram Parons & Emmylou Harris, etc). BIRDS FLY SOUTH’s warm, waspish songs are also unmistakably modern, with an alt-country scuff around the edges: the pair have learnt much from their day jobs in the backing band of Steve Earle.

  • Mungolian Jet Set have remade some of their dancefloor-friendly SCHLUNGS album into longer, more considered electro stuff on MUNGODELICS. You’d think Vangelis and Jean-Michel Jarre might invite them round for tea and then slip them a poison bun for nicking their schtick. But listen again and there’s a lovely electro-folk rush to these Norwegians’ work that’s somewhere between Lindstrøm and Peter, Bjorn and the other one.

  • There’s a Ballardian feel to Donald Fagen’s new record sunken condos, the title stays in your minds eye as you imagine sand and coral growing outside a future world where nature has taken over. Of course, the tightest band on the planet take over for another wry trip through the universe of jazz on a pop jet fuelled by cool.

Culture cuts - Spin the globe and stick a cultural pin in it


RADIO: ANTENA 3 , the irreverent arm of the Portuguese state-owned broadcaster (rtp), is de rigueur for those yearning for the quirkiest music acts and to feast on industrial quantities of good old political satire. When in Portugal tune in to 100.3 in Lisbon and 100.4 in Porto. The rest of the world can enjoy it at


1. Canções com História (A Song and a Story) – 10.40 - Pedro Costa is the presenter of this astute account on the stories and protagonists that inspired some of the best songs of our time.

2. Prova Oral (Oral Exam) - 19.00 - Fernando Alvim, a bit of a comedy legend in Portugal, hosts this one-hour slot where interaction with listeners is permanent. Political badinage not for the faint-hearted.

3. Portugália - 22.00 - Henrique Amaro brings you the very best of Portuguese music, an investment Antena 3 has been pushing forwards for over a decade.

MUSIC: Current top 5

1. DEIXAR CAIR - Salto

2. BURN IT DOWN - Linkin Park


4. HOLD ON - Alabama Shakes

5. VERDADE - Capitão Fausto


ALBUM: On his second record, ESTRELA DECADENTE the Paulistano singer and composer Thiago Pethit pulls inspiration from personas and settings ranging from James Dean to Andy Warhol’s Factory mixed up with Brazilian Tropicalismo and finds that pain is fundamental for anyone who wants to see the beauty of life. “I’m smiling while the world is crashing,” he sings in “Dandy Darling”, conveniently communicating wanton artistic abandon to listeners in both Portuguese and English.

BAND: Comprising Marina Vello (former lead singer of Bonde do Rolê) and Adriano Cintra (ex-CSS), the duo Madrid are a world away from the never-ending-teenage-party that was the trademark of their former bands. Grimey but not grumpy and only singing in English, they deliver echoes of Patti Smith with their lo-fi vocals and delicate vintage guitars and keyboards. It’s 100 per cent Brazilian but nothing like Brazilian music.

STAR: Reinventing the typical Latina actress of almond eyes, easy smile, glossy hair and year-round tan: Alice Braga, 29, is the most international of Brazilian actresses. Co-starring in Walter Salles’s ON THE ROAD, the unsalted film adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s beatnik odyssey. This is Braga’s first out-of-Brazil biggie and she’s an interesting choice for a burgeoning cinematic market.


FILM: Thai filmmaker Pen-Ek Ratanaruang first made his mark with gangster comedies that recalled a gentler, more whimsical Martin Scorsese. Now his newest film HEADSHOT – about an injured assassin who sees everything upside down – is forcing comparisons to Alfred Hitchcock.

NOVELS: A meth-addled cobra. Fatalistic bar girls. A lonely Buddhist cop. Those are just some of the elements in the surprise crime sensation BANGKOK 8 by John Burdett. And other expat writers are mining Thailand’s seedy side for inspiring noir fiction.

  1. In Dean Barrett’s Murder at the Horny Toad Bar & Other Outrageous Tales of Thailand, strange deaths pique detective Harry Boroditsky’s interest.
  2. Christopher G Moore’s Spirit House introduces readers to ex-lawyer Vincent Calvino.
  3. Colin Cotterill’s Killed at the Whim of a Hat, the travails of crime reporter Jimm Juree.

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