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Every once in a while I'll see a movie in which the use of a piece of music leaves me floored: the Rolling Stones' "Jumping Jack Flash" in Mean Streets, New Order's "Dreams Never End" in Carlos, or, hell, all of the music in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Such a thing happened to me last Friday, when I saw Portuguese filmmaker Pedro Costa's latest film, the hypnotic and slow-moving Horse Money, at the Gene Siskel Film Center. As Ben Sachs appropriately writes in his capsule review: "Painterly and meditative in Costa's singular manner, this 2014 feature reconfigures traumatic episodes, both personal and historical, into a waking dream." The film rarely features any music of any kind, but in one pivotal scene, a strange, elegant song appears as if out of the ether. Afterwards, I made sure to do some online searching when I got home to identify the song, and eventually discovered that it's called "Alto Cutelo," made by a band from Cape Verde called Os Tubaroes.
At the moment, I don't know much about Os Tubaroes, but what I do know makes me curious to explore their discography. According to their Discogs page, they were the "official" band of Cape Verde after the island country became independent. (Naturally, the country it became independent from is Portugal, which makes the music's inclusion in the film understandable, since some of what Horse Money is about is the residual damage and pain caused by fascism and segregation.) Particularly interesting is that all the members of Os Tubaroes had full-time occupations—they were doctors, lawyers, et cetera.
Their Allmusic/Discogs page also describes Os Tubaroes' music as "light-hearted [sic] coladera dances, tradicional [sic] morna songs and funaná beats." I'm not sure what those terms are or what they describe, but to my ears "Alto Cutelo" sounds somewhat like a combination of early music by the Congolese guitarist Franco and the score to Orson Welles's Touch of Evil. Mostly it sounds like an old dancehall populated by ghosts, or like the romantic tango of skeletons dressed to the nines. It's today's 12 O'Clock Track—check it out below.