Thursday, March 30th, 2017

Elza Soares – Mulher do Fim do Mundo

From this glowing late-career review: “Her biographer José Louzeiro has declared her contributions to Brazil’s folk music analogous to Bessie Smith’s and Ella Fitzgerald’s to the blues.”


Joshua Copperman: Goth-rock-jazz-samba led by a 79-year-old female Tom Waits is not an easy sell, and neither are those gargly, throaty, gravelly “la la la las” at the end of the song. The title translates to “woman at the end of the world,” and that is precisely what Elza Soares sounds like, as a backing band formed with Brazilian members of afrobeat and post-punk bands creates something that sounds post-apocalyptic yet full of grandeur. Reading Soares’ life story is not necessary to enjoy this, but it adds to how resilient and fired-up the song sounds. The way she draws out “cantaaaar” becomes even more defiant — that it doesn’t matter what’s happened to her, or what mythic stories are told about her, she’s going to keep singing until she’s the last one standing.

Claire Biddles: Perhaps because I can’t claim to have any knowledge about Brazilian music, the two reference points that immediately spring to mind when hearing “Mulher do Fim do Mundoare” are North American — the late-in-the-day sonic experiments of Scott Walker, and the sharp storytelling and learned vocals of Leonard Cohen. Like Cohen and Walker, Soares makes the kind of music that few get the chance to because it is born of so much lived experience, of which she has had more than most. With her gargled, unselfconscious vocals, she becomes her own symbol.

Katherine St Asaph: Evocative of full-on postpunk Diamanda Galás, and if that’s high praise it’s not disproportionately high.

Will Adams: The almost-a-descending tetrachord that opens the song is no accident; Soares stands as a woman filled with rich life experience, appreciating it while reconciling mortality. Engaging as it is, it’s challenging stuff — the simple chromatics from the first minute unravel into almost never resolving harmonies, and the end is a chilling, if a bit unsatisfying, ebb into silence.

Ryo Miyauchi: The dizzying guitars slowly spin a complex web that gives way to a climactic unraveling. But the minutes spent building tension have nothing on the decades of experience behind Soares. She pours every bit of those years into the song’s breakdown.

David Sheffieck: The production is masterful, a tensely unspooling journey that mutates and evolves over the course of the song. It has to be, in order to keep up with Soares: she croons and snarls, wails and rasps, and stuns. She’s a singular and utterly fascinating presence, the emotion she portrays undeniable.

Reader average: [6.7] (10 votes)

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