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There’s something to be said for parsimony in pop music, especially pop music coming out of the ‘70’s. In an age of rococo decadence and ornamentation (as well as that whole post-dandy aesthetic I still can’t quite wrap my head around), it took hutzpah to make a no-frills album. That’s, in part, where punk rock came from, and it’s at least part of the impetus behind the minimalism that took shape over the preceding decade. Whether or not that kind of ascetics actively played a role in Persona’s album, Som (1975, Brazil), it’s hard to say. There are at least six bands named Persona, and there’s nothing written about this one save what’s on FM Shades and Mutant Sounds.
Regardless, Persona’s music stands in stark contrast to the Tropicalia that had been coming out of Brazil for at least the past decade for all its minimal charm. Most of Som toes the line between Brazilian pop groves, and krautrock-y analog synth experimentation. It’s at least compelling – Persona seems all but unconcerned with melody, instead favoring texture-based pop. It doesn’t hurt that the entire record exists under a veneer of analog distortion: DIY pop well before the DIY explosion. It’s an abrasive record, eschewing Tropicalia ou Panis Et Circensis’ Technicolor sound for something untamed and gritty.
It’s naïve to think that bands that make home-recorded pop music have always done so for aesthetic reasons. Some bands can’t afford studio time, but have tape recorders lying around the house. Making a badly recorded album is better than not recording at all. In most instances of home recording, though, bands and artists force themselves to play the hand they’re dealt, no quarter asked and none given. To work with the equipment and talent they have. In Persona’s case, it was a two-track recorder and a handful of capable musicians. Even though it’s not much – or because it isn’t – it’s still a deeply uncompromising record. Maybe that’s why it didn’t catch on. It’s definitely what grabbed me.