A hometown city guide from its musical resident
Gui Boratto

A sprawling urban wilderness full of culture, clubs and cuisine, the skyline of São Paulo - the most highly populated city in the southern hemisphere - is dominated by various awe-inspiring buildings and man-made structures in its heaving centre. Fittingly enough, designing these buildings is where the city’s most renowned techno producer, Gui Boratto, began his career path.

Yes, before becoming an internationally acclaimed DJ and producer, Boratto qualified as an architect in his home city of São Paulo. Quite a career change, but for Boratto the two occupations aren’t so different: “I was always involved in music,” he says, “but after graduation as an architect I decided to keep doing my music, which I had been doing for ten years at that time. Now, after twenty years of productions I see how music and architecture are pretty much the same thing. Both express art in a different way.”

Boratto’s distinctive brand of techno and progressive house covers a wide spectrum of electronica: often dreamy and possessed of an Aphex-like ambience but with occasional forays into darker, semi-industrial territory, suggesting a harder dance element sparking under the surface. Seeing as this covers a fair few bases, I ask the man himself for a definition: “Slow melodic techno. Or, if you prefer, emo-techno!” Not sure I prefer any phrase with ‘the e-word’ in, but it’s certainly clear what he’s getting at - his music is indeed rich in emotion.

His influences while growing up elicit a fair amount of surprise: “Rock and roll of course. That’s my main influence, still.” And although the impact of Echo And The Bunnymen, Sisters Of Mercy, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin (all of whom he cites as favourites) may not be immediately obvious in his overtly electronic recordings, a closer listen suggests that aspects of his work can be traced back to a traditional rock songwriting framework - from the catchy melodies to the (synthesised) riffs layered on top of chunky basslines - perhaps Boratto is actually a rocker at heart, though this probably doesn’t stretch quite as far as the thrashy tones of death metallers and fellow countrymen Sepultura.

Boratto claims that he never thinks when composing and producing, instead preferring to “leave everything flowing naturally”, which may account for the wonderfully hazy vibe of his music, full of woozy synths and hypnotic beats, such as on ‘Atomic Soda’. This approach is then counterpointed by tracks like ‘No Turning Back’ (both from last album ‘Take My Breath Away’ - a superb example of innovative techno), which takes an absorbing but very different ethereal 4/4 approach.

Along with his own production, Boratto’s remixing (which has seen him rework the likes of Simian Mobile Disco, Massive Attack’s new single and, bravely, Robbie Williams’ latest) has taken him all over the globe, playing shows everywhere from Exit Festival in Serbia to Berlin’s infamous Berghain/Panorama Bar to the Montreux Jazz Festival, and - of course - numerous shows in Brazil, including many in his home city. Although globetrotting has its attractions, Boratto still resides in his beloved São Paulo - a testament to its appeal. “It can be crowded, but also calm and with lots of trees at the same time,” says Boratto. “It’s a very cultural city, where you can have the best food in the world.”

Food: one of the essential marking criteria when weighing up the worth of any city. And in this department, São Paulo excels. A varied and multicultural population has given rise to over sixty different types of cuisine - hinted at when Boratto mentions his favourite eateries: “Ici Bistro [chic French bistro], Tappo Trattoria [tiny Italian restaurant with only ten tables], Le Vin Bistrot [French/Brazilian hybrid] and Nagayama [Japanese restaurant]. I always go there, and sometimes I go with my Swedish friend [house and techno producer] Christian Smith. He’s my neighbour now.”

But there are also some surprises in store for the first-time visitor to São Paulo, such as… the amount of helicopters in the city. Yes, São Paulo is in fact the helicopter capital of the world, with the stupidly wealthy using them as a preferred mode of transport to avoid the notorious gridlocked traffic from the city’s six million cars. In 2008, more than seventy thousand helicopter flights took place around the city, with some pilots’ wages exceeding $100,000 a year, and in what is by far the richest city in Brazil and also the tenth richest country in the world, having this type of cash floating around is fairly useful.

No doubt partly due to this influx of wealth, São Paulo is a highly modern, cosmopolitan location, attracting huge amounts of tourists, business and more than the occasional musician and DJ as well. The city is now a regular destination for tours, as Boratto points out: “São Paulo is part of an international circuit of clubs. All the main DJs and producers come here to play in clubs like D-EDGE, Clash and now, the new Hot Hot club.”

Having been born and raised in São Paulo, Boratto has seen its evolution over three and a half decades. This growth has also run parallel to his musical career, on which the city has had a profound effect, shaping Boratto’s attitude to and appreciation of music. “Yes, of course it has had an effect,” he says. “I’ve lived here for thirty-six years now, and it has definitely influenced my music - we are made of everything we live, feel and see.”

Words by Tristan Parker

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Art in the park
“We have a lot of art galleries and amazing museums in the city, like MASP [São Paulo Museum of Art], MAM [Museum of Modern Art] and MAC [Museum of Contemporary Art]. I also enjoy visiting Ibirapuera Park, which has the Cicillo Matarazzo Pavilion with MAC in it. It is a kind of Central Park here, in the middle of the city.”

24 hours in São Paulo
“08.00: Breakfast at any simple typical bakeries we call ‘Padaria’.
10.00: Walk in the Ibirapuera Park and visit MAM and MAC.
14.00: Lunch in Jardins - a nice neighbourhood. It has amazing restaurants.
16.00: Some shopping around that neighbourhood. Very nice stores.
17.00: Stop at Tabacaria Ranieri. The best coffee in town.
21.00: Dinner at Ici Bistro, situated in Higienópolis, the place I live.
23.00: Drink at Skye bar.
01.00: Party at Clash Club or D-EDGE.”

Music around and about
“For clubs go to Clash and D-EDGE. I love to play in São Paulo. It’s great to have dinner and go to the club to play, just a few blocks away from my house. And more than that, it means I don’t have to go to the airport to travel! For live music, go to Bourbon Street, Via Funchal, or Credicard Hall. There are lots of venues and it depends on the show and the band.”

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ClashMusic's A-Z Guide To São Paulo



Carnival
Rio de Janeiro’s effort always steals the headlines, but São Paulo also knows how to throw a bloody great party, lasting an entire weekend.

Clash Club
No relation to our good selves, but also happens to be a bastion of quality music, hosting various electronic talent including Gui Boratto himself.

D-EDGE
Intimate and innovative club covered in LED panels which pulse to the beats spun by the underground DJ line-up.

DJ Marky
Veteran drum and bass DJ whose harder style eventually gained mainstream popularity.

FILE
Electronic Language International Festival - the biggest art and technology festival in Brazil, FILE explores the digital side of music, art and media.

Ibirapuera Park
Large park in the centre of the city containing various museums, pavilions and a planetarium.

Os Mutantes
Oddball psychedelic/Brazilian rock outfit with approximately seven hundred and thirty former members. Kurt Cobain was apparently a fan.

Renato Ratier
Techno and electronica DJ and producer known for leading the parties at D-EDGE club.

Sampa
Local nickname for the city.

São Paulo International Film Festival
Having run for over thirty years, this annual event focuses on showcasing a diverse range of new movie talent.
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