Vagarosa - CéU
Urban Jungle Records
A good collaboration between artist and producer can make it difficult to give credit where credit is due, leaving the listener asking, “Whose genius is at play here?” Most of the Beatles catalogue wouldn’t have been as fab without Sir George Martin at the helm and Thriller wouldn’t have been so thrilling without Quincy Jones. A Brazilian sambatronica singer named CéU (like mama piggy but it means sky or heaven) stunned the global music press with her debut in 2005. The album was picked up by Six Degrees Records for North America in 2007 but it’s still been a long wait for the always telling follow-up CD. Vagarosa is that new arrival and it delivers a fresh hit of the sonic euphoria induced by the original. Despite the distinctive airiness of her tone and textures, CéU is no fragile flower. A firmly rooted shrub may not sound as pretty but is a more apt metaphor. Grown into an atmosphere of musicological study, she explains, "I have a passion for Black culture, from jazz divas to Afro beat. Everything comes from Africa. With Samba, I have a very strong connection to the old school that we call 'Samba de raiz' (Root Samba). But Vagarosa doesn’t tarry long in the past. As a matter of fact, after a 55 second intro the designs of her producer, Beto Villares, (whose hand crafted her first disc along with a wonderful solo album this year) take full flight, wrapping CéU’s compositions in ear-massaging waves of audio ambiance and studio wizardry. She’s obviously a muse to him because the production is quite incredible when the two work in concert. I’m not sure what it is about South American tastemakers and their recent penchant for album intros (I’ve received similar pre-rolls on discs from Venezuela and Argentina) but here, the short acoustic ditty does little to detract from the glorious body of work that follows, very nearly hardwiring Brazilian samba with Jamaican dub. CéU’s spell continues to hold and Vagarosa is a must listen that requires no introduction, even if it’s included.