The latest from Brazilian singer Ceu is titled “Tropix,” a breezy, smooth blend of lounge, dance, Brazilian music and dub. Traditional Brazilian instrumentation paired with electronic overtones yields a warm album to welcome the initial vestiges of spring.
The sound found in “Tropix” is brilliant and inviting, mending organic melodies and lush casual yet penetrating vocals with a voice that carries listeners along the dance of explorative and varying tempos. The sound, at times, is laidback, drugged, flowy and furthermore upbeat. It’s a positive, refreshing tone that suggests relaxation, steamy days at the beach, long nights at the bar and contemplation even for those who don’t speak the singer’s native language.
Both “A Nave Vai” and “Etílica-Interlúdio” are, to me, exemplary of Ceu’s ability, range and diversity. The bass-driven start of “Etílica-Interlúdio” is reminiscent of the partial mellow upbeatness found in Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill.”
However, it digresses into a slowed down and weightless melody, hazily drifting forward as notes appear and disappear and cool sexy vocals and spoken words emerge to mend and hold the tune intact as it gradually dissolves into the everness of “A Menina E O Monstro,” a panting beat that picks up the pieces where “Interludio” leaves off.
“A Nave Vai” echoes spunky and sassy textures whilst featuring classical violins building a baritone and more controlled musical backbone to the rosy vocals. It’s two parts pop and one part classical, resulting in a unique vibrant cadence, reaching far beyond Brazil’s indigenous sounds. Though its undertones and influence ring apparent throughout the album, hints of traditional samba are ever-present, incorporated fluidly.
According to Ceu, the album “Tropix” is the formation of “tropical” and “pixel” inspirations, and this gives explanation to the album’s rhythmic like basis: “A pixel is a small part of a big thing—defragmentation as a concept. That’s also why the album has a lot of arpeggiator keyboard, to capture that sound.”
The arpeggiator is essentially a synthesizer function that plays the several notes that compose a single chord, a feature or technique that gives the levity and airy fleetingness inherent to the compositions found in “Tropix,” a vivacious sound expressed beautifully in “Perfume Do Invisível.”
Ceu’s “Tropix” is at its best when the distinction between violins, synthesized electronic sounds and grassroots beats all fuse into the same identical groove, borders for each genre blurred into obscurity, abstraction and sultry harmonies.
Though the contrast is overt, the sultry and suggestive singing style of Ceu against the backdrop of electronic modulations parallels the cool air of Portishead with a Latin flair. If Beth Gibbons of Portishead took an injection of samba and took inspiration from jazz and soul rather than trip-hop, the resemblance would be uncanny. Regardless, the velvety voices of both artists are sure to captivate any crowd and invoke images of smoky lounges and sequin dresses, or in the case of Ceu, flirty São Paulo beaches with a cocktail in one hand and a bikini-clad woman in the other.
Well-composed orchestration aside, Ceu’s voice is the mainstay of her work; it is evocative and suggestive, and your infatuation will be imminent.
Dimitri Kandilanaftis is a third-year student majoring in communication studies with a minor in journalism. Contact him at DK838967@wcupa.edu.