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Album Review

Until 2009, the music of Yonlu lived only in the virtual world on MySpace and on Luaka Bop's Three Inches of Music series. Yonlu was born Vinicius Gageiro Marques, and he hailed from Porto Alegre, Brazil. The difficult part of the story is that Yonlu was a very serious and sensitive young man who found life in this realm unbearable. He took his own life via carbon monoxide poisoning while signed on to a suicide forum on the internet, and remained online to the end, just 36 days before his 17th birthday, and after writing a long letter absolving his parents of any responsibility whatsoever. He left his parents a CD of his music before he died, but it was later, while going through his computer, that his father found most of the songs on A Society in Which No Tear Is Shed Is Inconceivably Mediocre. To his astonishment, he also discovered that Yonlu's music had made its way to many corners of the world and had been commented upon by various friends, DJs, and critics.

That's the myth, sad though it may be. The 14 songs that make up this collection are something else, however. They're infused with a freshness, innocence, and musical vision that is singular in scope and breadth. Yonlu's inspirations were myriad: they ranged from Radiohead and Elliott Smith to Gilberto Gil and the entire Tropicalia movement to classic bossa nova. Indeed, if this music can be called anything at all, it is 21st century bossa, infused by lo-fi and post-rock aesthetics. Yonlu was a musical and cultural polymath (he was an accomplished visual artist) whose sensitivity was matched only by his ability to realize his creativity. Check the tape manipulation skullduggery in "A Boy and a Tiger," where new acoustic, indie rock, samba, hip-hop, and spoken word all take their place in a mix that is dazzling in its reach yet utterly breezy in its space. "Humiliation" weaves together the tenderness of Caetano Veloso with the emotional pathos of Smith and Badly Drawn Boy. His cover of the Kings of Convenience's "Little Kids" is brief, but draws equally on shimmering bossa rhythms, overdubbed acoustic guitars, what sounds like a harp, and a rather complex bassline. Likewise his reading of the great gaucho artist Vitor Ramil's (another big influence on Yonlu) "Estrela Estrela," which is done reverentially and tenderly, carrying within it all the honest, open emotion of the original and adding intricately woven acoustic and nylon-string guitars. But the true wealth of this material lies in Yonlu's own songs. Of course it is tempting to read this through his tragic biography, but to do so would sell this music short. Check the primitive bossa meets futuristic MPB of "Ole Por Nos," with its delicately layered vocals, the messed up folktronica of "Q-Tip," or the glitchy edited loops on "Deskjet Remix with Sabrepulse," directed by the sounds of a charango. The set closes with "Waterfall," an utterly gorgeous and haunting folk song where layers upon layers of vocal harmony are chanted, sometimes in falsetto, sometimes in basso, and fall around an acoustic guitar treated with lacey reverb, sparse keyboards, and an atmosphere so thick its beauty is almost Baroque — and all this before the rhythm loops kick in. It is as celebratory, innocent, and unremittingly beautiful as anything you are likely to ever hear. This may be the only recording we ever get to hear from Yonlu, but as such, it is a treasure trove of complexity, mystery, and redemptive art. Indeed, this is bedsit music elevated to the realm of high art.

Biography

Born: 21 June 1989 in Porto Alegre, Brazil

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

Songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and virtual artist Yonlu was born Vinicius Gageiro Marques, in Porto Alegre, in southern Brazil's Rio Grande du Sul, one of the nation's most populated cultural capitals. The son of a psychoanalyst and a political scientist who was the region's secretary of culture, Yonlu was an aesthetic polymath who was an obsessive photographer, spoke fluent French and English, and became a self-taught music critic who published on numerous websites across the Internet -- he...
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A Society In Which No Tear Is Shed, Yonlu
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