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Céu: Tropix [Slipcase]

Track List

>Perfume do Invisível
>Amor Pixelado
>Varanda Suspensa
>Menina e o Monstro, A
>Minhas Bics
>Chico Buarque Song
>Nave Vai, A
>Rapsódia Brasilis

Album Notes

Personnel: Céu (vocals); Pedro Sá (guitar); Miguel Atwood-Ferguson (strings); Herve Salters (keyboards); Pupillo (drums).

Audio Mixer: Mike Cresswell.

Recording information: Comp-ny, Los Angeles, CA; Estudio Plug-In, Sao Paulo, SP; Rootsans Studios, Sao Paulo, SP.

Photographer: Luiz Garrido.

On her records, Brazilian singer and songwriter Ceu soaks up influences like a sponge. She's delved into everything from EDM, trip-hop, and dubby reggae to Tropicalia, bossa, samba, and MPB. That said, she's never sounded like anyone but herself. Her recombinant strategies always bear her idiosyncratic melodic and lyric signature, making her a standout on the global pop scene. Fourth album Tropix is simultaneously her most radically futuristic and deliberately retro. It is drenched in cool, late-night atmospherics, humid musical intersections, and deliberately artificial textures. It was co-produced with Naçao Zumbi drummer Pupillo and keyboardist Hervé Salters (General Elektriks). They make up half of her backing band, along with guitarist Pedro Sa and bassist Lucas Martins. Here she fully indulges in late-'70s post-disco, early-'80s R&B, new wave pop, soundtrack music, and mid-20th century MPB. Though her co-producers have advanced pedigrees, Ceu is clearly in the driver's seat. She wrote all but one song here, a deliciously arranged cover of obscure psych-band Fellini's "Chico Barque Song." (Its infectious backing chorus comes right out of Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side.") The cut-and-paste stylistic juxtapositions in this mix are all drenched in groove -- no matter how icy. First single and opening track "Perfume Do Invisível" employs a nocturnal analog synth, muted tom-tom, and a sparse bassline. Ceu starts singing softly and breathlessly, breezing through the dark subterranean textures. But just after the second verse, Talking Heads-esque guitars, analog sequencers, drum machines, and loops explode from the center. The only thing holding the track together is its breezy, infectious melody. "Amor Pixelado" spends its first third in restrained pop melody before spiny electro funk dominates, adorned in spacy 8-bit beeps as Ceu shivers her lyric through to its cool conclusion. The collision of '80s synth pop and late disco frame the sensual "Etílica-Ineterlúdio," with a sweeping cinematic bridge as Ceu duets with Tulipa Ruiz. "A Menina e O Monstro" flirts with rockist guitars, but the shimmering celeste makes it irresistibly sweet (even if the rest of the orchestration is purposefully angular). She saves the best for last, however. The three final cuts, "Camadas," A Nave Vai," and "Rapsódia Brasilis" are all painted with strings written and performed by Miguel-Atwood Ferguson. He adorns the first with a Salsoul Orchestra-styled chart behind rich, poppy R&B, the second adds a psychedelic disco panorama to bubbling keys, punchy guitar, and crisp snare breaks, while the third delivers a Richard Evans-esque arrangement that pastes swirling, soulful violin and viola colors onto a pumping electro dancefloor groover. Whether Tropix comes across as a reinvention of Ceu's sound or just the next phase in her evolution may be up for debate, but the album's quality is not. It is the most artfully rendered and sophisticated recording in her catalog, the work of a mature artist in full command of a sonic language. It's also a hell of a lot of fun to listen and dance to. ~ Thom Jurek


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