Arto Lindsay


From “Horrible Noise” to Brazilian Bossa

Guitarist and latterly producer/solo artist Arto Lindsay embodies in his work a rather unusual blend of art-rock savagery and Brazilian smoothness. The offspring of American missionaries, his early upbringing in Brazil left him with as much appreciation of Latin music as of the more traditional pop fare. His mother was an enthusiastic amateur pianist, introducing the young child to the music of Dorival Caymmi and Nat King Cole. During the early ‘60s the Tropicalia movement spearheaded by Jorge Ben and Caetano Veloso were as much a part of the soundtrack to Lindsay’s childhood as was western rock music.
He sets it into context: “Because I was a teenager in Brazil in the ´60s, I thought it was part of the purpose of pop music to change people´s consciousness and spread information. In the ´60s, Brazilian pop was aware of many other styles. People loved all kinds of music – from the Beatles and the Rolling Stones to Brazilian folk to avant garde music like John Cage to serialism to 20th century classical music”.

Lindsay moved back to the USA in 1970, and reached New York in 1974. Initially he thought he might make his way in the art world as a writer, but soon turned towards music in general and the guitar in particular when he heard the sonic roar of Lou Reed’s Velvet Underground and Iggy Pop’s Stooges.

The dawn of punk-rock was glimmering on the horizon when the young guitarist was offered a gig for his ‘band’ at Max’s Kansas City, the Mecca of punk. Despite the fact that he didn’t actually have a band, he accepted and then set about forming a group of like-minded musicians for the occasion. The result was his legendary outfit DNA, which included a drummer who had never played drums and a performance artist whose main role was to look striking. It was at this point that Lindsay began to incorporate ‘extended techniques’ into his playing, using prepared instruments and unconventional playing techniques. He says that he ”wanted to do something really extreme. I thought that was the route to success”.

The result certainly made an impact upon critic Lester Bangs, who referred with a certain admiration to the ‘horrible noise’ made by the outfit. In a nod to their leader’s heritage, DNA’s provocative approach also included Portuguese vocals and Brazilian drumming, but nobody really noticed – Lindsay notes “people thought we were improvising but it was meticulously rehearsed”. Unlike their peers of the time, the outfit did not manage to successfully climb aboard the punk bandwagon, and in the 1980s Lindsay redirected his energies to the Lounge Lizards.

Described as ‘fake jazz’, the Lizards drew upon rock, improvisation and avant-garde to create an idiosyncratic music .There followed a series of equally ambitious projects, including the Golden Palominos with Anton Fier (focussing primarily upon improvisation) and the Ambitious Lovers (soul-funk with added samba), before Lindsay launched a solo career in the early ‘90s.

As solo artist, he fused samba and bossa nova, and here he added vocals to his list of skills. Later on, Lindsay accidentally stumbled into production work via his guitar contributions to a Caetano Veloso recording. Following his Latin Grammy-winning production of a Marisa Monte album, he has become a sought-after figure in Latin art music, including work with Gal Costa, Carlinhos Brown, Tom Ze and Vinicius Cantuaria to his credit.

Like any self-respecting eclectic, his art activity is not restricted to performance and production. He has both curated sound installations and has created pieces in his own right, including installations at such prestigious venues as London’s Barbican and the Brazilian Carlton Arts festival. Collaborators in this field include musicians Ryuichi Sakamoto and Brian Eno, and he recently stepped into the world of dance with a commission from Mikhail Baryshnikov’s White Oak Dance Company and another one for the dancer Richard Siegal, performed in Paris and Berlin.

He sees himself primarily as a collaborator, despite his solo career. He points out that ‘solo’ is rarely solo in reality – “somebody’s got to record it and mix it and master it”. This sense of collaboration also extends to composition. He notes that he can’t play an instrument in the conventional sense: “I can’t write chords, so I have to collaborate to write a song. Maybe one day I’ll sit down and write songs on my own but at this point, I still can’t”.

Author: Martin Gordon


Encyclopédia of Arto

Label: Ponderosa Music&Art
Distribution in France: Harmonia Mundi
Release date: May 20, 2014

Pop musician, (vocals, guitar), songwriter, audio provocateur, sought-after producer, Arto Lindsay has made a lifelong habit of crossing both geographical and musical borders. Born in the United States and raised in Brazil during the heyday of that country’s pointedly eclectic Tropicália movement of the 1960s, the multi-faceted Lindsay has forged an international reputation as an artist whose work is as seductive as it is challenging. The first disc includes tracks from his solo albums released between 1996 and 2004 (featuring amongst others Caetano Veloso, Vinicius Cantuaria, Brian Eno, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Nana Vasconcelos…) while the second contains previously unreleased (solo) live recordings from 2012, including covers of Prince, Al Green, and Brazilian singer/songwriter Chico Buarque.

Arto Lindsay - Encyclopédia of Arto


Label: Righteous Babe Records
Release date: January 01, 2004

When it comes to unleashing the cultural and sonic clashes between the streets of Rio and New York, no artist has been more proficient than songwriter/producer/guitarist Arto Lindsay. On Salt, his sixth solo album and third on Righteous Babe Records, Lindsay continues to offer an uncanny meld of earthy Bahian grooves and in-your-face electronic textures, exploring the outskirts of both forms and returning with some fantastic melodies.

Taking inspiration from Carnaval, Brazil’s yearly celebration of the tawdry and sinful, Salt is both musical celebration and lyrical steam bath. From the opening “Habite em Mim” (translated “Inhabit Me”) to the closing title track (which contains the lines “She covers herself in honey/Stretches but won’t succumb”), this is a visceral, sexually-charged piece of work.

Produced by the usual team of bassist Melvin Gibbs, electronic wizards Kassin and Berna Ceppas, and Lindsay, Salt contains an intoxicating blend of harmony and instrumentation. “Into Shade” may be the richest, most elegant song in Lindsay’s catalog, full of lush string arrangements and guitar flutters. “Habite em Mim” and “Personagem” will likely be mined by hip-hop producers for their stark, throbbing beats. “Kamo” (Dark Stripe) is a sleepy, undulating mix of multi-cultural pop. As usual, Lindsay’s voice is soft and seductive, beckoning listeners in both English and Portuguese, with little more than a reedy whisper.

It’s altogether fitting that Arto Lindsay has titled his record after one of the most basic and organic substances in Mother Nature’s spice rack. Salt is a wild and surprising ingredient, examining the mysticism of human desire without ever losing sight of the hook. Add a pinch to your daily listening; your senses will be thankful. Robert Christgau

Arto Lindsay - Salt


Label: Righteous Babe RBR027-D
Distribution in France: Universal Jazz
Release date: June 01, 2002

American-born, Brazilian-bred songwriter, musician and producer Arto Lindsay has built an international career on his ongoing exploration of provocative sounds rooted in the rhythms and aesthetic sensibilities of Brazil’s legendary rock and pop scenes. Travelling effortlessly from delicate, sophisticated subtlety to sheer sonic assault and back again, Lindsay has staked a claim for himself as a true original. “INVOKE” is Lindsay’s second release on Righteous Babe Records, following 1999’s “PRIZE”. Like his precedent releases, this production draws not only from the familiar bossa nova, samba, and tropicalia movements of the 1960s and ‘70s, but from the equally exciting directions Brazil’s constantly evolving, inherently hybrid culture has taken in more recent decades.

Arto Lindsay - Invoke


Release date: October 19, 1998

Although he’ll never make as much money at it as the samba masters he takes after, Lindsay’s jeu d’esprit has turned modus operandi. He seems fully capable of an album like this every year or two: a dozen or so songpoems in English or Portuguese, floating by on the sinuous current and spring-fed babble of a Brazilian groove bent, folded, spindled, and mutilated by the latest avant-dance fads and electronic developments. The weak link is the poetry, which wouldn’t be as fun as the music even if it was as well-realized. The selling point is the fads and developments, and the faux-modest singing that renders them so organic.Robert Christgau

Arto Lindsay - Prize

O Corpo Sutil/ The Subtle Body

Label: For Life Records
Release date: January 01, 1996

For over a decade, while Lindsay promoted samba’s whispery vocals and fancy-pants chords as makeout music for sensual intellectuals, many who by some mischance lacked Portugese continued to find those very selling points precious, schlocky, or both. So now Arto flexes his connections and writes his own jazzboistic verse, and, well, there’s nothing like a lyric you can understand. After leading with something about the colors of the sky that’s way too sensitive for this reporter, the man sounds like the bedroom astronaut he says he is even when he’s celebrating a superbright two-year-old on the most seductive song here—even when he reverts to Portugese. Reason to regret one’s unimaginative personal relationship with Caetano Veloso.
Robert Christgau

Arto Lindsay - O Corpo Sutil/ The Subtle Body