Never mind MP3s, WAVs, and OGGs. Forget M4As, WMAs and AACs. And while we’re at it, lets dump CDs too. What you want is a good fat ol’ bolachão, or ‘big biscuit’, to use one affectionate nickname for vinyl, to put on your platter, and we don’t mean any of the warpy, bendy, jumpy cheap dynaflex or PVC rubbish that gave vinyl a bad name. We mean brand new, quality vinyl records – and they’re proliferating.
The black stuff is back in clubland, too – some DJs would argue it never went away – at vinyl-only parties like Rancho Albertino at Alberta #3. The Vinil É Arte (‘Vinyl is art’) collective – formed of DJs Niggas, Formiga and Seu Juca – shifts around town playing the gang’s own vast collection of records, and inviting you to bring your own – check vinilearte.com for listings.
The new releases make a point of stating their weight – that’s a nice, thick, solid, 1940s-style 180 grams, just like grandma used to make. The deeper the groove, the lower the frequency. But despite the growing ranks of new record-lovers, some still haven’t caught on that vinyl is back on the menu. Over at FNAC on Avenida Paulista, amongst the iPads, plasmas and playboys, vinyl shirks in a forgotten corner. ‘We’ve got hardly any,’ offers one assistant, ‘just AC/DC and that sort of thing.’ As if to prove the point, they sell a retro-style deck that also plays cassettes and CDs – called ‘Nostalgia’.
Put the needle on the record
Forget it. For sexy decks, needles ’n’ phones, look no further than Catodi (AKA 'Casa dos Toca Discos'), at Santa Ifigênia 398. Here, you can find anything from the pure luxury of a Harry Weisfeld-designed VPI HR-X deck at a jaw-dropping R$72,000 to a more modest Gemini TT-1000 turntable at R$799.
There are good pickings at Livraria Cultura inside the Conjunto Nacional on Avenida Paulista, too, with a modest rack of new and old offerings, like the Joy Division In The Studio With Martin Hannett limited edition double LP at R$199.90, or Brazilian releases by artists like Roberta Campos, at a more modest R$83. Cheap it ain’t – a crippling 66 per cent of every record sale goes to the government, in taxes.
‘If you look at the back of any old Brazilian LP, you’ll find “disco é cultura [records are culture]" written on the back. As art, it should be exempt from tax – the cost is too high,’ says Luiz Calanca, owner of the vinyl treasure trove Baratos Afins in the Galeria do Rock. It’s down here in Centro, where true aficionados can be found flipping through the racks. Calanca, wearing a Lez Zeppelin T-shirt (‘They’re lesbians who play Zeppelin’) explains how he opened the shop in 1978: ‘I was a chemist. I already had experience with drugs, so it was an easy career change. Thirty years on, I realise I knew nothing about music: you learn from your customers.’
He has released 104 LPs on his label since the first one by Arnaldo Batista of Os Mutantes. ‘Today, he’s cult, but at the time I didn’t sell any of them.’ Calanca guesses he’s accumulated over 100,000 titles on vinyl. ‘I’ve got records that have been here since I opened the shop,’ he jokes, as a steady stream of customers ebbs in and out. (‘How much?’ ‘R$60 but that one’s rare, man’). One client down from Natal, shopping list in hand, interjects that he just loves: ‘the covers, the back covers, the inserts, the art’.
Vinyl’s wilderness years over the past couple of decades have served to make some of that ephemera all the more sought after and valuable – but there’s good news for lovers of vinyl records, pure and simple. Latin America’s only record plant, Polysom in Rio, stayed in business pressing LPs for evangelical churches before closing down in 2007. It was reborn just two years later by the new demand for vinyl, and lately has been pressing new releases by Pitty, Cachorro Grande and Fernanda Takai. Take a look at our roundup of some up the best new vinyl releases and re-releases from Polysom and other Brazilian labels.