Terra d'Àgua - Viagem de um Som
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Terra d'Àgua
Viagem de um Som
Forrest Hill (www.harmonymusic.it)

cd cover This recording by the Portuguese duo of Maria Anadon on vocals, and Davide Zaccaria on cello, classical guitar and keyboards is just the thing for a peaceful, sunny summer afternoon, with its quiet, subtle songs and arrangements. But prepare for a few jolts along the way. Anadon's slightly nasal alto is friendly and confidential, while Zaccaria's arrangements, especially his use of cello and Portuguese guitar, keep these poppy tunes from assuming unbearable lightness. Lyrics, sung in Portuguese, are also provided in Italian and English, their quick-stroke impressionism apparently not an artifact of translation.

"Daniel Z," the lead-off track, sets the tone for much of the record, a gentle background drone grounding Anadon's vocal skat, insouciance with just a touch of melancholy. "Tenho Coisas," one of the most memorable songs, begins with a delicate backing figure on Portuguese guitar and hand drums, Anadon laying down a calm vocal melody, the pretty refrain consolidating the light sadness introduced in the first track. On the title track, pretty, slow acoustic guitar opens on a deliberate melody, accompanied by cello, frequent hesitations adding a restrained drama. Just when you think that it's safe to settle into a hypnotic mood, "Mas Não São" arrives with Anadon's quick, jazzy skat, backed by driving drums and cello, an enjoyably hyperactive cello solo in the center.

"Agosto" marks the return of serenity, Anadon and guest Jorge Fernando sharing a vocal duet, backing dominated by classical guitar, piano, and cello, all echoing one another's phrases. But don't relax just yet. "Mixtli" interposes an almost humorous sixties-style funky rock beat, instrumentally framed by cello, Anadon's vocal driving ahead of the beat on verses, a cello freak-out solo in the center, the whole a strikingly odd yet pleasing performance. Only on "Il Clown," with its deep cello opening and tinkling Portuguese guitar, does a desperate sadness seem to emerge from the mild melancholy suffusing the album. "A Lei da Canseira" is the most traditional-sounding track, with calm beat and bouncy hand percussion, Anadon and guest vocalist Paolo de Carvalho trading breathless, run-on verses, coming together in harmony on chorus. The closing track, "J. L.," offers more jazzy skat, this time with a stuttering beat and sax embellishment, lyrics reprising those of previous tracks in a context of frenetic self-doubt.

Viagem de um Som is a bit difficult to categorize, pert pop mixed with Iberian tradition and instrumental eccentricity, but is the more unique and enjoyable for it. - Jim Foley

Available from cdRoots

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