APKÁ! (with capital letters and an exclamation point), the fifth album from São Paulo’s Céu, consolidates the journey of the singer and composer’s career up to this point. A hot, minimalist record, which brings together sonic, thematic, musical and conceptual extremes, the new album reveals an artist passing through the musical trips made on previous records while eventually leaving her chrysalis, transformed into a new composer and interpreter, ready to start a new phase of her career.
The album’s title comes from Céu’s youngest child Antonino, a word shouted by the one year old to express complete satisfaction. Smiling & happy, Céu’s son with producer and drummer Pupillo, shouts the strange, made-up word to show that he is happy with everything from a meal to a game. It’s a mixture of excitement and gratitude. In its own way, APKÁ! does just that – in the form of music.
On the track “Off (Sad Siri),” Céu begins to reveal the musical quilt that makes up her new work. Crying keyboards and a melancholic guitar combine with her whispered vocals, which intertwine with those of Congolese vocalist Leonardo Matumona, one of the few guest performers on the record. APKÁ! features the same team that worked on Céu’s celebrated previous studio album Tropix. French musician Hervé Salters, from the band General Elektriks, repeats his role as co-producer and keyboardist, as well as long-time bassist and faithful accomplice Lucas Martins and Pupillo on drums, programming and co-production. Guitarist Pedro Sá, completes the quartet that accompanies Céu on almost all of the new album’s tracks.
Despite the returning collaborators, APKÁ! is far from a Tropix 2, a fact that begins to prove itself with the diffuse track “Corpocontinente”, a psychedelic, slow motion composition that begins to show Céu stretching out and experimenting beyond previous productions. By the new album’s fourth song, it becomes apparent that the compositions, vocals and musical arrangements (all personally overseen by Céu herself ) begin to reveal different musical influences and references than previously exhibited in her discography.
Céu’s previous records could be summarized in terms of specific landscapes. While her debut album showcased her initial palette of influences (samba, reggae, rock, MPB, soul, pop and African music), her subsequent releases saw her musically traveling through different environments- almost all of them imaginary. Vagarosa descended through the reggae & dub family tree, Caravan Sereia Bloom explored the desert and the road, Tropix was nocturnal, synthetic and geared for the dance-floor. APKÁ! brings together these different universes, while presenting new musical experiences. On the new record, Céu experiments with new forms of composition and new ways of using her voice. It is apparent that she is increasingly confident in her artistic personality and how she manages to bring it to the surface.
A good example of this new confidence and sprit of growth are the two cover songs on the new album, an unusual move for Céu who has shown a whole generation of female Brazilian singers that it’s possible to compose your own material, instead of just being an interpreter of classic repertoire. With APKÁ! Céu reinvents herself as an interpreter of unpublished compositions that she commissioned from two different composers – Caetano Veloso and Dinho, from the group Boogarins.
“Pardo”, by Caetano, gains an almost magical property as sung by Céu, who invited Seu Jorge to sing the track’s chorus, humming without words. “Make Sure Your Head is Above” was an unprecedented request that Céu made for Dinho to compose a track in English. The result is one of the best songs of the Goiás composer’s career. This track is one of the central moments on the album and features special guest, American guitarist Marc Ribot, who accompanies Pupillo’s discreet beats, to stunning effect. In the case of both cover songs, Céu creates unique sonic universes, weaving her voice with the other instruments and putting her own unique stamp on the material, even as an interpreter.