Music with a few rough edges and more originality.
Jon Lusk 2009-03-31
Vanessa da Mata is big in Brazil, and about to make her UK debut during this year's la Linea festival. She writes most of her own material and is well enough connected to call on Os Ipanemas' Wilson das Neves, Kassin (of Orquestra Imperial) and bossa nova veteran João Donato, as well as hiring Jamaican rhythm aces Sly & Robbie to help out on her reggae numbers and elsewhere. But after several listens to her undeniably pleasant third album (Yes) you'll probably struggle to recall much, let alone hum one of the tunes.
The suspenseful tone of opener Baú suggests that Sim is going to be more exciting than it really is. Ben Harper then appears on Boa Sorte – Good Luck. Of course, he twangs away on his trademark Weissenborn guitar and sings in English alongside da Mata's Portuguese. It's a likeable, catchy enough duet …but thereafter, Sim alternates between so-so reggae and MPB (Música Popular Brasileira – the catch-all phrase that covers most Brazilian pop).
The immaculate, airbrushed production by Mario C and Kassin is very easy on the ear, and the musicianship is fine (with Kassin’s guitar and synth work especially noteworthy), but they can’t hide the fact that da Mata has neither a distinctive singing voice nor writing style.
Absurdo sounds like a carefree, tropical rewrite of The Specials' smash Ghost Town, which is ironic when you consider what inspired them. Quem Irá Nos Proteger toys with the tropicália sound of the late sixties, while Quando Um Homem Tem Uma Mangueira No Quintal has a samba feel. And Meu Deus features Donato's subtle piano, a gorgeous, elaborate arrangement and exquisitely deft drumming from das Neves.
Da Mata tackles the closing Minha Herança: Uma Flor on her own, with just acoustic guitar. It has a slight wisp of a melody, like a light dessert that looks great but hardly tastes of anything. Those who enjoy bland things (''Sim!'') will no doubt come back for more. But anyone who likes a bit of flavour – music with a few rough edges and more originality – will almost certainly say ''Não''.