'a well worthwhile progress report for these prime proponents of Brazilian dancefloor...
Martin Longley 2004
This 2CD set combines three aspects of Zuco 103. The One Down disc is devoted to unplugged material, while the One Up spinner divides time between live numbers and remix jobs.
The trio was formed when German keyboardist Stefan Schmid and Amsterdam drummer Stefan Kruger met Lilian Vieira at the Rotterdam Conservatory. Given that these two were already running a Brazilian jazz combo, it seemed wise to induct a singer from Rio, thereby making up a fresh band. Disc 1's supposedly unplugged material still sounds fairly electric, with its Fender Rhodes piano and fulsome basslines. What Zuco really mean is that the songs are slower, more reclined in nature, and that all that blinking-light programming junk has been jettisoned!
Vieira sounds mellowed-out against Schmid's trinkling keys, unwinding a slinky, sloping funk motion. "Mo" has a chamber jazz sophistication, and "Eu Nasci No Brasil" deepens the reflective pool. By this time, Schmid has turned to acoustic piano, then "Q Baiano" makes a sudden move up to a springy, taut gracefulness, with Vieira spilling Portuguese phonetics in staccato couplets. "Voltando" is nowhere near unplugged, stuffed with samples to aid its drum 'n' bass propulsion.
This is all attractive enough, but the real substance is to be found on Disc 2's live set, recorded in Belgium. Here, the trio are operating at a frenetic pace, with Vieira audibly jumping around on stage, her vocals lusty and loud. The core trio is augmented by bass, percussion and the braying electro-skids of Sjam Sjamsjoedin's turntables. The slogging samba rhythms of "Peregrino" rush towards the accumulating breakbeat tension of "Humana", then Zuco shift into an oscillating techno vibe for "To Life", its pounding, monomaniac bass drum being relieved by pattering congas.
The remix tracks offer up a more mainstream experience, with "Treasure" and "Get Urself 2gether" approaching conventional soulfulness, although the latter is livened up by a guesting rapper Tara Chase, sparring with Vieira. It's the remix of "Peregrino" that satisfies the most, dominated by a ratcheting samba beat.
These kind of collections can often be seen as cynical record company-generated fillers between studio albums. But there's sufficient power here to the live cuts and a pleasingly seductive mood to the unplugged material that makes this a well worthwhile progress report for these prime proponents of Brazilian dancefloor fusion.