CD: DJ Dolores, Real

. He may be a DJ, but this erudite third album by the Brazilian is free of generic beats, writes Charlie Gillett.

It's been a while since the arrival of a new album from a DJ aroused such optimism.

There was a period when it seemed that DJ-led projects such as Massive Attack and Fatboy Slim represented not only the here and now but the inevitable future, in which vocalists would return to the secondary role they had held back in the days of big bands, when the billing was the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra featuring Frank Sinatra on vocals (and not on every tune).

But it turned out to be harder than it looked. It's not enough to hook us with dance beats and hope to satisfy our need for lyrics with a few sampled phrases from a vocalist. We want more sense of personal identity. So while singers have been recovering lost ground, DJs are scrabbling for a handhold. After too many endless tracks of mindless beats, we wave them away, telling them to get back behind those decks, boys, and forget about making records.

Based in Pernambuco in the north east of Brazil, too far away to feel our derisive rejections, DJ Dolores has been working away on his third album. And while he follows some established formulas - sampled vocals over beats that make you want to move - on most tracks it feels as if everybody is playing together, live, and there are enough signs of an unusual mind at work to satisfy those of us who are paying attention, who listen while sitting down.

Overlooked for many years, Pernambuco's biggest city, Recife, has emerged as the source of some of the most interesting singers, musicians and rhythms in all of Brazil, its rural flavours still dominant in contrast to the smoother, cosmopolitan productions of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

DJ Dolores is a brilliant arranger, integrating a sawing fiddle and rough country vocals into the lurching, rocking rhythm of 'Proletariado'. Raucous trumpet leads into the street-band percussion of 'Cala Cala', as female singer Isaar wends her way to deliver the lead vocal.

With each listen, another track stakes its claim for special attention, and Isaar features on many of them. On 'Numeros', her almost acidic tone may not be pretty, but it fits perfectly into the song's edgy, jazz-meets-dub atmosphere.

This may be the first dance album to have adjacent tracks named after Shakespeare and Jean-Paul Sartre ('JPS'), and must be among the few whose sleevenote includes the observation that 'very little has changed since the Marx/Engels duo first described capitalism' ('Proletariado').

Sometimes dreamy, occasionally closer to nightmare, the music never settles into anonymity. Provocative, sympathetic, amusing and entertaining, it's likely to be around all year, haunting our coffee shops, driving our cars, selling whatever TV is selling and making us feel like we're living in the year 2008.

Download: 'Numeros'; 'Proletariado'; 'Cala Cala'


Charlie Gillett

The GuardianTramp

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