Thievery Corporation ‘Saudade’ Transcends and Transports


Words by Amelia Viner

It’s dusk. The sun sits on the skyline and its glow radiates on the water. You watch the sun sink into the horizon from your chair as you tap your strappy tan heels on the restaurant’s cobble stone. The bartender hands you a Caipirinha and you sip it slowly, drumming your fingertips on the glass, still looking at the sunset.

You stand up and close your eyes, start to sway–maybe because you’re tipsy, but mostly because “Décollage” by Thievery Corporation has just come on. It streams into the outdoor space like a soft rain and you can’t help but drift with it. You let the gentle French phrases by Lou Lou Ghelichkani, the humidity, and the sweet drink carry you into a calming trance as you glide past the gleaming bodies to the dance floor.

Saudade, Thievery Corporation’s seventh studio album, has the power to transport you here– to a Brazilian city you may have never been to, yet may feel more comforting than anywhere you’ve ever been or dreamt of. Saudade’s strings and Latin claves blend with the gentle hum of the restaurant; the clinking of wine glasses and plates combine to create a spontaneous live accompaniment. And that drink in your hand, the Caipirinha, is one of Brazil’s cultural symbols. It is constantly being reinvented with varying ingredients. Just as the sum of its parts can morph into something new yet preserve its authenticity, so too can Thievery Corporation’s blended sound revisit its first love in Saudade: bossa nova.

Comprised mainly of Rob Garza and Eric Hilton, Thievery Corporation bonded over their shared love of samba-blended beachside jazz when they met in the mid 1990s. The duo describes Saudade as sort of both a homecoming and a departure: “these are our roots, this is what brought us together. It’s us coming full circle from electronic music back to something organic before we move on to our next chapter.”

Saudade perhaps pays homage to “Chega de Saudade,” the first bossa nova song composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim, performed first by Elizete Cardoso and made famous by João Gilberto. The album title translates, in many different languages, to a universal expression of nostalgia, grief, loss, and fulfillment: a melancholic melange of emotions to be relished. Thievery Corporation captures this sudden paradox of feelings in Saudade.

In “Décollage,” the first track, Lou Lou Ghelichkani sings: Et quant tout s’est arrêté, la musique m’a prit et je sais que tout va être. Tout va bien avec le son, j’ai surpassées mes pas, et je sais que tu va être. The French lyrics are at once philosophical, meditative, and playful, loosely translated as: “And when everything stopped, the music took me, and I know that everything will be. Everything is good with the sound. I surpassed my steps, but I know that you will be.”

The coming and going of the shimmering cymbals in “Firelight” lend a cinematic nuance, like the revealing of a once mysterious object, or the disappearing of an elusive character. In “Firelight,” the strings and cymbals present Lou Lou singing, another groove without a name, carried through the floor. Memory recalls visions of us. All my dreams attended and then farewell, my love. Train is gone– deep fog remains.

Throughout the album, we feel the despair, the suspension and lingering of emotion like a fog. It’s a resolute sadness, an acceptance of loss. These are the transcendent moments that move through us and make us a feel alive.