Céu, Marisa Monte, Badi Assad, Cibelle
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The Shine of Dried Electric Leaves
Six Degrees (www.sixdegrees.com)

Six Degrees (www.sixdegrees.com)

Badi Assad

Marisa Monte
  Universo ao Meu Redor
  Infinito Particular
Both titles - Metro Blue

Brazil has often been called "the country of the future," though that has sometimes been a slight, implying that it has not arrived. In music, Brazil has repeatedly stepped forward onto the world stage. Many recent concerts and recordings demonstrate why there is a worldwide cult of Brazil nuts, who, like myself, have a big place in their hearts for this land of amalgamation and paradox.

The international success of Bebel Gilberto has been at the forefront of what's been called electro-bossa, but much of the music has not really been appropriately labelled. The music of young singers such as Cibelle and Céu have the understated vocals and laid-back vibe of bossa, but that is often where the comparison ends.

Cibelle came to fame as a singer with the producer Suba, an ex-pat Yugoslavian who was instrumental in creating the electro-bossa sound before he died in a house fire just as his career was taking off. Cibelle's The Shine of Dried Electric Leaves creates a whispy dreamscape that only occasionally echoes the samba-steamy beaches of Rio. It probably will leave the jazz-oriented wing of bossaheads cold, but might strike a chord with synth-friendly Bebel Gilberto fans.

Fellow São Paulo singer Céu's eponymous debut is also an electro-chill out, moving to a spongy funk. Céu has a sweet, seductive voice, while her music is late-night cool, seeming of and for the world of darkly lit lounges, billowy couches and other places of horizontal comforts.

The singer-guitarist Badi Assad has staked out territory that is even harder to place on the musical map. The story goes that Badi, sister of the classical guitar playing Sergio and Odair Assad, locked herself away to discover the sonic possibilities of the acoustic guitar and the human voice. As a teen, her technical expertise got her national awards, but she seems determined to confound expectations while creating music that is rich with emotion and spirituality. She gives a mesmerizing solo performance: accompanying herself with overtone singing; playing guitar with one hand while playing percussion with the other. It sounds kitschy, but the result is as magical as it is lovely.

On Wonderland, Assad plays with some stellar musicians and the great Brazilian producer and cellist Jaques Morelenbaum. Like she did on her last album, Verde, she creates a repertoire as explorative as her guitar and vocal techniques. She intensifies, yet sonically lightens up, the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams," then applies her restless energy to "1000 Mirrors" from the Anglo-Asian electro-punk Asian Dub.

The critically and commercially successful singer Marisa Monte took a sort of maternity leave from her career, but has now simultaneously released two albums: Universo ao Meu Redor, a collection of new and old sambas; and Infinito Particular, which features quiescent pop tunes.

Universo marries Monte's gorgeous voice to gorgeous arrangements, gently pulsing forward on soft samba rhythms. For the most part the tunes are not as jazz-ambitious as bossa, but they have their own sophistication with Monte's characteristically immaculate production and atypical instrumentation, making use of harp, glockenspiel and electronics. Calling it the state of samba today may be too heavy a burden for an album of such delicate beauty, but it is certainly one of the finest and most elegant examples of what a pop samba album can be. Infinito has many of the same elements, but overall it's more static - not as dark as its stark black cover, but certainly a deep shade of blue.

With all this and more coming from Brazil, "the country of the future" is here now. - Marty Lipp

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