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Coachella, beyond the main stage: Cooling off with Céu

April 12, 2010 |  9:11 am

Ceu300 COACHELLA COUNTDOWN: In the days leading up to the three-day Indio fest that begins April 16, Pop & Hiss gives you the reasons to arrive before the headliners. 

Who: Céu

From: São Paulo, Brazil

Reason to care: First, it's pronounced "say-oo," and despite the fact that her debut album appeared on the corporate coffeehouse label Hear Music, her music isn't so easily dismissed as venti-friendly audio wallpaper. Born Maria do Céu Whitaker Poças, this singer-songwriter mixes elements of reggae, jazz, hip-hop and electronics-flecked psychedelia into the sound of Brazil on her 2009 album "Vagarosa." The sultry end result should feel as inviting as those breezes that weave around the polo grounds at sunset but remain unpredictable enough that you won't drift into a lounge-induced desert nap. At times reminiscent of Bebel Gilberto and Juana Molina, Céu at her best also recalls the left-field sonic invention of Tom Waits, with woozy horns, carnival keyboards and the occasional flinty guitar. Mostly sung in her native Portuguese, it may not be easy to translate what exactly Céu is singing about, but smart money is on her performance sounding like an oasis all the same.

Listen: With its big, rounded bass notes and echoing guitar stabs, "Grains de Beauté" recalls the seductive nocturnal atmosphere of early Portishead but with Céu's own languid twist. Keep an ear out for the pinched, nylon-stringed guitar that rises out of the shadows, keeping the song on a borderless musical frontier.

Céu, "Grains de Beauté"

Fun fact: Given that she hails from soccer-mad Brazil, it may not be a surprise to hear that Céu's "Malemolência" appeared on the soundtrack for the video game FIFA 08.

What's next: After Coachella, Céu continues a brief U.S. tour that closes at New York City's Highline Ballroom  on April 25. Céu also will appear on Herbie Hancock's forthcoming album, "The Imagine Project," due in June.

-- Chris Barton

Photo: Céu. Credit: Caroline Bittencourt