Some eight years have passed since we had the Six Degrees’ ‘Caravana Sereia Bloom’ CD arrive, with flavours of Gal Costa and Marisa Monte on the first spin. It was far from the normal Brazilian vocal albums we were familiar with, rather much more of a modern gritty affair – a comparison in how Marcelo D2 has approached hip hop and the ever-changing music of Brazil. That “difference” is a refreshing one as edgy synth patterns compliment CéU rather than the acoustic guitar we come to expect from the genre. And little has changed with her methods but her platform has risen considerably with this release from her last award-winning album, ‘Tropix’, bringing on board Hervé Salters (General Elektriks), Pedro Sá (think Caetano Veloso), Marc Ribot and Seu Jorge to further explore her own electric sound.
Her sixth album, APKÁ!, which hit Brazilian shops last year, gathers together a selection of 11 songs, some written or co-written by São Paulo native Maria do Céu Whitaker Poças, and others by Dinho (‘Make Sure Your Head Is Above’) and Caetano Veloso (‘Pardo’). Three singles have already been lifted from the album; ‘Coreto’ – a lo-fi laid back beat-driven piece, ‘Corpocontinente’ – a dark and moody song, and ‘Forçar O Verão’ – a European sounding trippy electronic pop number. Of the remaining songs ‘Make Sure Your Head Is Above’ is one of two English language cuts, this revolving around Marc Ribot’s guitar and a track that works very well, the other being ‘Eye Contact’, a choppy electronica song with Brasil’s duo, Tropkillaz, taking a step to the left with the arrangement. As for the Portuguese songs, ‘Pardo’ stands out with a moody backdrop from Seu Jorge, ‘Ocitocina’ conjures up the hedonistic state and ‘Nada Irreal’ feels like it wants to join a reggae boot camp.
Where I feel CéU best captures her own style is in ‘Fenix Do Amor’, allowing for vocals and textures combined with the clear electronic base layer her albums all seem to wear. It’s very original and really does set her apart from her contemporaries. Oh and the closest we get to ‘that’ typical bossa sound we relish is on ‘Off (Sad Siri)’ with Pupilo (Romário Menezes de Oliveira Jr) layering the beats.
With throwaway keywords Electronic, Jazz, Latin, Funk, Soul, Afrobeat, Bossa Nova and Experimental used in the promotion of the album I feel it can all be misleading to those that involve themselves with some or all of those fields. SéU doesn’t fit in any of those bags but brings them all as the foundation of her own unique, sometimes folky, vision of her music of which the musical pigeon-hole has yet to go into production.