Tracing the Brazil - U.S. connection

Album Review: Isabel Lenza’s ‘Ouro’ is hot on Céu’s trail

Ouro is Isabel Lenza’s debut, and it shares the wavelength of another São Paulo-based singer-songwriter so often that comparisons are inevitable. Reggae-tinged tracks like “Incontível” recall Céu’s early, dub-heavy works, but most of Ouro goes for the seamless blend of electronic textures and traditional Brazilian pop that Céu perfected in last year’s Tropix.

It took Céu a whole decade to reach her current level of mastery, and Lenza is striving to create, not imitate, so some slack is in order. Lenza sings mostly about love, bur her songwriting is evocative, poetic even, and never corny, and while she has room to grow as a vocalist, for the most part she does her words justice. And despite the seeming Céu fixation, Lenza is eclectic. There’s some neo-lambada in Ouro, (“Isso é Castigo,” “Amor é Amor”)  plus some classy balladry (“Amalgamado,” “As Coisas Querem” and even a propulsive rocker (“Partícula de Estrela”), while “Cinematográfico” reaches for grandeur and almost attains it.

Ouro is at its most adventurous in the opening and closing tracks. In “Sintropia,” tablas, strings and intricate guitar work come together to weave an etheral, exotic tapestry, while the minimal, glitchy electronica of “Temperado e Ameno” verges on trip-hop. Here’s hoping Lenza lets herself go on more trips like these in future releases.