Céu has become one of Brazil’s biggest musical exports, in part because of her accessible, polished repackaging of traditional Brazilian sounds but also because of the support of major commercial players such as Starbucks. Grand claims are made for Céu as one of Brazil’s most ‘sonically adventurous’ artists, a statement perhaps erring on the hyperbolic side, but there are certainly moments here when she seems keen to veer further away from the breezy, relaxed music that made her name.
Caravana Sereia Bloom starts brilliantly with Falta De Ar, easily its most thrilling and grittiest moment. It almost sounds impolite, as a prowling bass line threads its way around impetuous keyboard stabs and snarling guitar. It’s made all the more effective by the relative familiarity of its melody – it could have come from a much more relaxed Bossa track. Similarly, the excellent Retrovisor (its title accurately suggesting a retrofuturist vision) begins in minimalist Bossa territory, before the track takes an entirely unexpected detour into near psychedelia.
Nevertheless, Céu can still sit squarely in the middle of the road at times, particularly when she attempts English language pop songs. There’s nothing truly objectionable about the amiable reggae of You Won’t Forget It, but radical it most certainly is not. Streets Bloom at least has an engaging sound – but is melodically and harmonically rather predictable and familiar.
Another problem comes in the form of the album’s two interludes (Teju Ne Estrada and Sereia). Clearly they are deliberately included to provide respite or break the flow but, especially in the case of Sereia, they feel like small shards of excellent ideas that might have warranted further development. Sereia features fuzzy field recordings and a lightly distorted voice. It’s a much murkier and more mysterious sound world than that found in her more conventional songs. How might it have unfolded given more time and thought?
That being said, there is a strong preoccupation with brevity that begins to characterise this album. Only one song stretches beyond the four minute mark and one, the beguiling Ffreee, seems to stop just as it is taking flight. It often feels as if Céu is perched uncomfortably between a commercial, widely appealing sound and something more exploratory and liberating.
Whilst not a truly subversive artist, Céu is certainly adept at concocting interesting hybrids. Perhaps the best example of this might be Antios De Antigos, which has the pristine shuffle of a Mark Ronson production coupled with twangy guitar more obviously suited to an Ennio Morricone soundtrack. With a variety of elements cleverly combined, Céu’s pop music begins to sound idiosyncratic and fresh.