Anastácia Azevedo: Amanaiara

Matt Cibula

Anastácia Azevedo


Label: Piranha Musik
US Release Date: 2004-08-10
UK Release Date: 2004-07-12

A.A. comes from a very arid part of Brazil: Ceará, in the northeast. The word "amanaiara" is an ancient word, dating from before the Portuguese landed, which means "rain". Not just rain, mind ye, but LOTS of rain, sheets of rain, the kind of rain that drowns frogs.

A.A. is based in Europe now, making funked-up Brasilian eletro-pop-M.P.B. hybrid music. She writes most of the lyrics and sings all the songs, letting collaborator/partner/multi-instrumentalist/musical director Zé Eugênio mostly handle the musical end. They tap into Xaxado and other older Brazilian styles to supplement the solid pop melodies, and this album is thoroughly delightful in every way one can think of.

You really need to look no further than "Rãdo", or "Moon", to see what they're up to. It's got an easy-rocking forró beat that slides into straight world-music-style reggae. A.A.'s voice is pretty in that easy jazzy way that only Brazilian women can pull off without showing off, and she harmonizes with herself like it's easy to do, but the twisty-turny melodic line keeps shifting and getting supplemented with techno-drones and craviola noises, so it must have been very difficult to make it all sound this effortless.

You don't need to know what A.A. is singing about on "O Rio" to be blown away by the up-tempo prog-rock craziness of the melody, or just how bouncy and breezy and sad-sounding it all is at the same time. The last track, "Labirintos de Rendeira", is pointillist and precise, and provides a nice New Orleans second-line beat setting above which A.A.'s voice slides, cutting diamonds the whole way.

Some of these songs sound more Brazilian than others. "Pé de Côco" taps into an old Brazilian tradition of nasal scatting (Caetano Veloso uses this trick all the time, still), but piles on the layers of distorted vocals and hard-rock guitars like in contemporary axé music. The next song, "Faço Amor", could really have come from anywhere with its smooth Jamaican/MOR synthesis. But it all sounds like A.A., like someone who loves all kinds of music (she and Z.E. are based in Berlin) but still sees it through a Brazilian lens.

That having been said, this isn't a deep album, or one that shakes the pillars of heaven. Most of this is inherited or learned wisdom, rather than something that A.A. has come up with on her own. There doesn't seem to be any real sadness or joy here -- obviously, not knowing a lot of Portuguese, it's hard to know if this is true for the lyrics, but there are no transcendent moments here, the way there are on, say, a Vanessa Bumagny album, or in Cris Aflalo's work. So don't expect to weep, or to giggle, or to gasp in surprise.

But if you like semi-adventurous and sweet music that hits the right notes, you will be down with this action.

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