Lucas Santtana - 3 Sessions In A Gree LP
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On the 15th anniversary of its original release, Mais Um revisit a lost classic from the catalogue of one of Brazil’s most regarded and influential contemporary songwriters
Presented on vinyl and streaming platforms for the first time ever - remastered by German dub shaman, Stefan Betke/Pole - the album features Tom Zé and manguebeat pioneer, Gilmar Bola 8. Lucas Santtana’s 3 Sessions In A Greenhouse fuses psyched-out samba and baile funk with original Black Ark-style studio distortion and spiritual dub dread, laying the foundations for his seminal Sem Nostalgia LP five years later, and in the process, establishing Santtana as an elemental force of Brazil’s current new wave.
“At the beginning of my career, I was experimenting, trying to figure out my sound. On 3 Sessions In A Greenhouse, I discovered what I am and what I wanted to do in music. All the pieces connected. Everything just felt like the right place at the right time.”
From discovering Coltrane, Pierre Schaeffer and Bulgarian Choirs at an early age to playing flute in Gilberto Gil’s touring outfit in 1990s whilst learning guitar and writing songs on the side in hotel rooms, it was clear from a young age the Bahia-born polymath was no stranger to stylistic intersections nor would he become a stranger to versioning classic album tracks in dub.
Whilst touring his second album Parada De Lucas (2003), Santtana and his group, Seleçao Natural, were often caught in soundcheck ‘re-mixing’ classics by Naçao Zumbi and Tom Zé, as well as some of his own, in a foundation style, forming the groundwork for what would become 3 Sessions In A Greenhouse. Having secured an arts grant for its production and set against the backdrop of Rio De Janeiro’s buzzing soundsystem scene, which included Santtana’s own beach-born Sensorial Sound System (co-founded by Seleçao Natural’s man about beats David Cole), and the now 20-year standing Digital Dubs reggae dance, Santtana and co. set about on their third full-length, little did they know that within four days and three nights, they’d be next to finished.
“It was an amazing atmosphere from start to finish. Even after 15 years, when I meet Ricardo (bassist), Gil (drummer) or anyone from the album, we always talk about those 3 Sessions. We would work from 10am to 8-9pm, playing all day. Time did not exist. No telephones. Smoking the best weed in Rio, it was like a greenhouse. We had the feeling, we were creating a new sound.”
Comprising four originals and four Santtana/Seleçao Natural dubs (plus a CD bonus track), 3 Sessions In A Greenhouse was and is a sound clash unlike any to have come before. Produced by Santtana and Recife’s dubsetter himself, Buguinha Dub, each session was approached as an opportunity not to just record each instrument but to create an environment in which the studio becomes the centrepiece. Recorded and mixed entirely live as a group, with no overdubs, 3 Sessions’ feels uniquely intimate and relaxed (best typified by the band’s ‘chat’ in-between recordings).
From the driving Nyabinghi-style percussion of opener Awô Dub to the psychedelic 2-tone reworking of Lycra – Lymāo, laced with Aggrovators-esque dub horns, 3 Sessions salutes the greats of 70’s roots reggae triumph yet never steers far from its time and place. Tropicalia Icon Tom Zé features on Santtana’s slightly zippier version of Zé’s samba dub Ogodô Ano 2000 and American journalist Phylis Huber’s reading of an extract of Virgina Woolf’s The Waves on the expansive 9min-long Balearic/afrobeat dub A Natureza Espera, is poignant and trippy. Santtana’s take on Naçao Zumbi’s Pela Orla Dos Velhos Tempos, featuring original member and percussionist Gilmar Bola 8 on vocals, takes on techier references of the Detroit type, whilst vinyl closer Into Shade is a sumptuous psych rock dub ballad, co-written by Arto Lindsay.
Within the space of three nights, in a mist-engulfed recording studio 30-minutes north of Rio, Santtana and his Seleçao Natural had recorded, produced and mixed 3 Sessions In A Greenhouse yet the album’s evolution had only just begun. Once putting the album online, Santtana invited listeners to download and remix each track using audio stems from the original recordings and thus, granted permission for his work to be deconstructed and reassembled in whichever way the author saw fit (a concept not unfamiliar to Jamaican reggae/dancehall producers). Exactly fifteen years later and now remastered and presented for the first time outside of Brazil, the evolution of 3 Sessions In A Greenhouse continues.
“It was really important to have Stefan (Pole) remaster 3 Sessions. He brought a lot more punch to the original recordings. He also brought a lot of ambience as well. I really see this as a new version of the album. It’s not just a re-release. It’s bringing something new to the sound, the versions, the mix. This is what the album is all about.”