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Bebel Gilberto
Bebel Gilberto

If it wasn't hard enough being the daughter of João Gilberto and Miúcha, now Bebel Gilberto has t'deal with being railroaded into the downtempo/chill/mix-CD clique. The chanteuse's setting of soft electronic programming to Brazilian rhythms led to collaborations with Amon Tobin and Thievery Corporation, which led her into the ghetto of tasteful remixes, which meant her name was soon imprinted on scores of coffee-table music compilations. It's only now, four years on, that Gilberto has finally followed up her debut disc, Tanto Tempo, with a brand-new self-titled set.

Produced with Björk collaborateurs Marius de Vries and Guy Sigsworth, the gear is geared to give more substance to her songs, the hope being that a little more grist in the mill may shake off some of the more easy-listening evocations evoked the first time around. Of course, the album does dip into some entirely tasteful tunes that'll endear themselves to the Ipanema set (like "All Around," all breezy sway and syrupy strings), but there're other songs here that hint at a gentle adventurousness. And it don't just come from the presence of fellows who've helped Björk chase her unlikely digital dreams, but in other collaborations, like "Aganj˙," where Bahian bandleader Carlinhos Brown kicks a candomblé into an uncomfortable gear with assorted self-constructed idiosyncratic instruments (kalincajÛn, Styrofoam isopor, rubber nose) creating intermittent "polyrhythms." Later, he litters "O Caminho," ostensibly an Astrud-ish jazzy-piano-by-the-beach number, with "percussion" touches: cobbled claypot, bracelets, nylon bermuda, and "galactic berimbau" — these kooky contributions, if we're to draw Björkian comparatives, being more Matmos-ish than anything else. Elsewhere, there's a couple cuts — "Cada Beijo" and "Winter" — where Sigsworth and de Vries, respectively, bring a more zap-like digital crack to the beatsy programming, this contrast'd with cascading strings, both in pizzicato-preset and actual-orchestral-players form.

All such said, I'm sure there's scores of listeners uninterested in any Björk associations, concerned only with this disc's tropicalist credentials. To that end, the album only features one "standard," Gilberto covering Caetano Veloso's "Baby," in English, by way of Os Mutantes, no doubt.

But, further to the famous-kid angle ever-present in any write-up of Bebel (who first appeared on stage with her mother at the age of 7), the album features recurring collaborations with Pedro Baby, son of Pepeu Gomes and Baby Consuelo/Baby do Brazil, and even includes a co-write with Daniel Jobim, grandson of Antonio Carlos Jobim. Whilst Gilberto, born and based in New York, is more about internationalism than Brazilification, her second disc does find the princes and princesses of bossa novan royalty frolicking in these new electronic realms, all whilst new audiences continue to discover the genius of their old-folks' old gear.

by Anthony Carew

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