"Cavana Sereia Bloom", the third album in seven years from Brazilian singer and songwriter Maria do Céu Whitaker Poças (aka Céu), sounds dramatically different than the breezy, electronically washed 21st century bossa and samba of her previous offerings.
Both earlier efforts were influenced by the electronic music of Thievery Corporation, Kruder & Dorfmeister, and even Röyksopp, as well as the classic era of jazzy bossa and samba.
Working with producer Gui Amabis, "Caravana Sereia Bloom" is a much more expansive and ambitious recording.
Born from ideas incurred during an extended road trip through her native country, from São Paulo to the nation's northeastern region, and the inspiration of the road movie "Bye Bye Brazil", it reflects -- musically -- much of what she heard in her travels, and has more in common with the ambitious, experimental spirit of the tropicalia era without being self-conscious.
While "Caravana Sereia Bloom" is easily the most stripped-down record she's cut, it is also her most contemporary.
Céu and Amabis employ programming and electronic sounds throughout; the emphasis here is on guitars, basses, drums, keyboards from synths to Wurlitzer, reeds, winds, and brass.
No two tracks seem to come from the same root universe, but all reflect the fleeting sensations of life on the road.
The funky carnivalesque jazz samba in opener "Falta de Ar" contrasts mightily with the neo-psychedelic surf guitar chicha of "Amor de Antigos".
The ska-inflected cumbia of "Asfalto e Sal", with its bass drums, flutes, and hypnotic bassline, is an album highlight.
"Contravento" is a rhythm collision of samba, lambada, and cumbia. It's among the most driving tracks here and colored beautifully by a multi-tracked tenor sax, B-3, percussion loops, drums, a taut bassline, and pulsing guitars.
"You Won't Regret It", one of three English-language tracks here, is a cover of a vintage rocksteady tune featuring gorgeously layered vocals, trumpet, flügelhorn, sampled tuba, and grand rhythmic interplay.
"Baile de Ilusão" melds 21st century brega and cumbia in a heady, sensual mix with a lovely melodic frame.
"Fffree" is an abstract, completely solo tune, on which Céu plays organ, guitar, and bass and sings a brief, airy poem about the liberating quality of rootlessness. The 13 tracks on "Caravana Sereia Bloom" reveal an artist who is pushing the envelope of MPB, and is taking no prisoners in the process. T.Jurek