Céu ‘Caravana sereia bloom’ (Six Degrees) 3/5

A native of Sao Paulo, singer Céu is very much in the lineage of fellow Brazilians Gal Costa and more especially Marisa Monte. Latterly Céu has wisely broken away from the shackles of neo-bossa territory fused with electronica to search for her own distinctive identity. This latest album finds her searching and there are both positive and negative features of this ongoing quest. On ‘Contravento’, arguably the album’s most compelling song, there is an early 1970s feel that Gal Costa would be at home with and the subtle programming is ideally suited to her delicate voice. Equally the vocal and guitar duet on ‘Palhaço’ is a very promising sign of an emerging singer-songwriter talent and the song is creative and keeps the listener on the edge of their seat. Reggae beats have been incorporated into previous albums and here ‘As falto e sal’ has the slightest of reggae influences on the keyboards which is unsual enough to attract the listener and there is some cod-reggae with a ska input on ‘You won’t regret it’, reggae remaining perennially popular in Brazil with Gilberto Gil and many other top stars recording in the idiom. The nearest Céu comes to the more traditional bossa groove of her debut album is on ‘Retrovision’ with guitar and keyboards adding an indie rock feel. Céu faces a dilemma that Bebel Gilberto has recently encountered. There are very different expectations of a Brazilian singer inside and outside the country. In Gilberto’s case she became stuck in a rut with an updated dancefloor take on the classic bossa nova beat. Within Brazil this simply sounds passé and Céu has opted for developing new avenues that includes singing in English (new to a native English audience, perhaps less so to her native Paulistas). However, if she shifts the balance too much in favour of an English language repertoire, she risks alienating her international audience that appreciates the exotic sound of the Portugese language mixed with recognisable contemporary instrumentation. Céu has not yet found the ideal balance, but is at least on the way to getting there. She performs live on a brief mid-late April UK tour.

Tim Stenhouse