In 2016, the adventurous Brazilian singer/songwriter Céu delivered her global club phenomenon Tropix. The album has since developed a reputation far beyond the confines of the dancefloor, as sophisticated pop audiences embrace her integration of pulsing electro, spaced-out samba, and elastic, sci-fi disco. Her earlier catalog paved the way with bold but sultry expositions of Brazil's melodic song tradition and her own preference for rhythmic and harmonic exploration. APKA!'s title translates as a metalinguistic cry of unrestrained joy by Céu's youngest son. Though a more minimally produced effort than Tropix, the euphoric effect remains, given Céu's treatment of the material. She employs the same crew as last time -- guitarist Pedro Sa, co-producer keyboardist Hervé Salters, bassist Lucas Martins, and drummer/co-producer Pupilo -- though the set's final track was produced by hot Brazilian production duo Tropikillaz (DJ Zegon and Laudz). Céu wrote eight of the set's ten tracks.
Opener "Off (Sad Siri)" is a dreamy, sensual ballad that drifts between the bardos of saudade and erotic love song. Immediately following, "Coreto" directs her love to both a paramour and her band. Its warm, minor-key electro frame greets the expectant possibilities of night with a hooky, passionate Holland-Dozier-Holland-esque chorus that expands its dimensions. "Forçar O Verão" emerges as a shock, with synths and vamping guitars (courtesy of guest Marc Ribot alongside Sa) weaves a new wave aesthetic (a la Ze Records) and also references Fear of Music-era Talking Heads with the lithe salaciousness in Céu's vocal. "Corpocontinente" is an odd but fine choice. Slower than everything that precedes it, this weave of keyboards, organic and synthetic beats, dirgey bass, and swirling ambient effects, creates a nocturnal soundscape around Céu. She uses it to her advantage in a breezy delivery that plumbs the aching, emotional depths of homesick longing and long-distance love. There are two covers here as well. "Pardo" was written specifically for Céu by Caetano Veloso, and features the iconic backing vocals of Seu Jorge atop a rhythmic base of Afrobeat, space-age funk, pop, and soul. The other cover is a sultry psych-pop song commissioned in English by Dinho, that also features Ribot. "Eye Contact" had to close the set: Given its alien beat consciousness, nothing else here could follow it. Produced and featuring Tropikillaz, it cobbles together zig-zagging samba, hip-hop, funky jazz, Kraftwerk-ian electro, and 21st century soul in a poetic narrative that's as vulnerable and reflective as it is prescient. APKA! integrates the creative lessons of all her previous outings and executes them boldly, in beautifully crafted artfully performed songs. While Tropix bridged past and present, with APKA! she sings from the future to reference the past and present in what currently amounts to Céu's artistic manifesto.
© Thom Jurek /TiVo