The sounds of Brazil echoed through the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue on Tuesday night — and echoed and echoed and echoed. Both opener Curumin and headliner Ceu update Brazilian pop with contemporary electronic techniques, including copious amounts of reverb and delay. The acoustics of the resonant venue — generally used for more acoustic-oriented concerts — turned the evening’s thickest timbres into sonic oatmeal.
The two one-named musicians, both from Sao Paolo, are touring to promote new albums. Curumin’s “Arrocho” is the more eclectic and ambitious, but in performance the material from Ceu’s “Caravana Sereia Bloom” worked better. That was partially because the singer was the more dynamic performer; she slinked and swiveled in a spangly silver dress, while Curumin stayed behind his drum kit. But Ceu’s songs also benefited from more dynamic range, and more air in their arrangements.
The vocalist, who sometimes played synthesizer or percussion, was backed by a four-man band that included a DJ who scratched vinyl and added other sound effects. Most of the audio embellishments involved Ceu’s singing, which was echoed, sampled and multiplied. Sometimes she was accompanied by disembodied recorded backing vocals, which may have been all her voice.
A few of Ceu’s songs followed the model of 1960s bossa nova, with breezy rhythms and whispery melodies. Yet most of her 75-minute set was more aggressive, incorporating elements of soul, reggae, hip-hop and other styles. “Retrovisor” combined a strutting groove with blues-rock guitar, and the polyrhythmic “Rhaina” emulated, although it didn’t rival, Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat. If the results were sometimes murky, that was the room as much as it was Ceu’s heavily treated sound.
Joined by a guitarist and bassist who sometimes switched to keyboards, Curumin emphasized the noisier side of “Arrocho,” an album with many easygoing tunes. Strands of reggae, hip-hop and spaghetti-Western soundtracks could all be discerned in the singer-percussionist’s 40-minute set, whose most direct number was “Afoxoque,” a funky shout-along. The boldest timbres came from techno, whose thumps and squawks too often overpowered Curumin’s craft.
Jenkins is a freelance writer.