Event on 2012-06-21 20:00:00
Ever since Brazilian phenomenon Ceu captivated the world with her self-titled debut album in 2007, her follow up release has been widely anticipated. After being chosen as the first international artist featured in Starbucks Hear Music Debut series, Ceu earned both Grammy and Latin Grammy nominations, countless press accolades, and chart topping numbers. So how does one of the most successful Brazilian female artists of our time respond? With her typical grace and artistry.
First came Cangote in May of 2009, a teaser four-song EP that was a harbinger of wonderful things to come, as the full-length album Vagarosa demonstrates. Vagarosa, which translates to slow, easygoing, and leisurely, perfectly reflects the vibe that runs throughout the album. Everywhere on Vagarosa is evidence of Ceu's ever-deepening musical sophistication and intelligence. Notice the albums opening track, for example: on the surface its all gentle sweetness, nothing but Ceu's flutelike voice accompanied by Rodrigo Campos on the cavaquinho, a sort of Brazilian ukelele. But the songs title hints at more serious concerns titled Sobre o Amor e Seu Trabalho Silencioso (Concerning Love and Its Silent Work), it celebrates, in Ceu's words, the invisible chemistry of love, when it awakes, but the song also makes quiet reference to loves demands. That song leads beautifully into Cangote, which deepens and darkens the mood and prepares you for the myriad sounds and flavors to come later in the program.
Comadi, a song that Ceu co-wrote with with Beto Villares, and that she explains is about how much women struggle for their position in life, is dense and funky, with lots of wah-wah guitars, low reeds, and a slow and soulful groove. The musical texture opens up a bit with Bubuia, on which the percussion skitters lightly on the surface, hinting at a sort of jungle breakbeat, but Ceu's smoothly languid vocals keep the groove anchored in a relaxed medium tempo even as the intensity begins to build near the middle of the song. Grains de Beaut is a sensual love song on which she invites the beloved to draw lines connecting the beauty marks on his lovers body.
One of the most interesting things about Vagarosa is the extent to which organic acoustic sounds and cutting-edge electronic textures are woven together into a completely natural-sounding whole. On Nascente, a basically acoustic backing track is twisted and refracted by electronic means, while a hot horn chart and a feline rhythm give the impression of a cat stalking its prey perhaps amorously and perhaps not. Papa, the albums only English-language track, encourages you to not take yourself so seriously while placing Ceu's voice in an echo chamber with electronically altered acoustic instruments. The combination of the wet ambience and the mysterious, minor-key melody draws you in until the song suddenly ends after less than a minute and a half.
And yet some of the albums most transcendentally beautiful moments are also its simplest and least complex. On Vira Lata, which deals with the problem of falling in love with an unfaithful but lovable person, a flugelhorn and cavaquinho provide tastefully minimal backing, showcasing Ceu's voice as gently as a jewel in a simple but elegant velvet box. When the layers of multi-tracked flutes come in near the songs end, the effect is like the arrival of a flock of rare and lovely birds. Ponteiro (which again touches on serious issues related to the passing of time) features a circus organ and a metronomically plucked electric guitar a rather blocky arrangement that nicely complements Ceu's airy voice and the delicate melody she sings. On Cordo da Insnia she sings of when the city sleeps and everything becomes quiet, a moment when often the creative energy starts to flow, making one stay awake, not able to sleep, creating. This song returns to a reggae groove, with some nifty backwards guitar and lounge-flavored mallet keyboards. Espaonave layers Ceu's voice on itself, multi-tracking harmony lines in a way that suggests a Brazilian version of Zap Mama, while the churning groove is more like 1960s funk with a slippery New Orleans drum part. This albums music and lyrics have been informed by a number of recent developments in Ceu's life, including the birth of her daughter an event that is celebrated here by a gentle and lovely rendition of the old Jorge Ben song Rosa Menina Rosa. Sonmbulos subject matter is unusually pointed: the songs image of a sleepwalker is intended as a critique of those who allow their own personalities to atrophy in deference to the preferences and expectations of others.
The production of the album started in mid-2008 at Ambulante Studios in So Paulo, Brazil. Ceu teamed up with her old accomplice, producer Beto Villares to produce and record her new compositions. In the process, they also involved producer and engineer Gustavo Lenza (Ceu's touring engineer for the past 4 years, who recently produced Curumins last two records) and soundtrack producer Gui Amabis, who has collaborated with Ceu on the Sonantes project. Throughout the album Ceu enjoyed the assistance of many top-notch musician friends: members of Los Sebozos Postizos make an appearance on Rosa Menina Rosa; Curumin plays drums on Cordo da Insnia; Luiz Melodia provides exquisite guest vocals on Vira Lata. Pupillo and Dengue from Nao Zumbi contribute drums and bass on Ponteiro, and Siba (a founder of the regionally famous Pernambucan band Mestre Ambrsio) co-wrote Nascente with her.
The ever-proliferating crowd of Brazilian musicians lining up to record with Ceu, combined with her deepening penetration of the worlds music markets, is more than enough to bear out the optimistic predictions of the music media. But really, all the proof of her unique talent is right here: in the beautifully simple melodies, the sophisticated complexity of the arrangements, the wide-ranging musical references, and the general warmth and attractiveness of her songwriting.
at El Rey Theatre
5515 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, United States