For the inaugural album in their Passport Series, dance and electronica compilation label UBL Music decided to focus on the music of Brazil. They gathered tracks from the recent albums of some of the top Brazilian and Brazilian-themed artists and producers, brought in a few remixes, and Essential Lounge: Brazil was born. As Brazilian music has been a particularly popular genre in club music worldwide since the late '90s, the groups included on the compilation represent a nice chunk in its range of influence, hailing from (besides Brazil, of course) Italy, England, Sweden, Romania, the U.S., France, and the former Yugoslavia. This means that though it all stays within the vague heading of downtempo/chillout/nu-jazz and keeps a samba-inspired beat, there is a lot of interpretation and variation from song to song. Some artists are more successful than others at pulling this off: "So com Voce" by Thievery Corporation is a nice mix of lounge and smooth Portuguese, and "Alice (No Paid da Malandragem)" by London producers Da Lata is also excellent, with a soft acoustic guitar, funky electronic beats, and live vocals from singer Pedro Martins. The tracks by Brazilian artists, however, are generally better, and unsurprisingly have a much more "authentic" sound. DJ Dolores, for example, samples songs from his native Recife, while Curumin is heavily influenced by older singers like Jorge Ben and Caetano Veloso. There are a few tracks that don't fit as well musically: the Nicola Conte remix of Gabin's "Into My Soul," featuring Dee Dee Bridgewater, is funky and jazzy, but hardly brings any sort of Brazilian feel to the piece, and Sidestepper's "Donde Va Mi Corazon," while it does have a subtle intensity that drives the piece nicely, is sung in Spanish and belongs in a Latin lounge compilation, not a Brazilian one. Whether this error was intentional or not on the part of the label, it should be forgiven, because Essential Lounge: Brazil has a lot of great tracks from a lot of great artists, and as an album, creates an atmosphere that could rival any club in Rio.
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AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2