Ending a paucity of all-new material since 2004, the singularly creative experimental pop warrior Arto Lindsay is set to break the fast on April 21, 2017. That’s when his new release Cuidado Madame from Northern Spy Records is delivered to the masses.
There is no mistaking that this is Arto Lindsay. His easygoing, Michael Franks vocal expression, Brazilian percussion, tactfully deployed synths and avant-garde twists headlined by that spiky, atonal guitar of his…it’s a formula that’s been his signature since his time in the Ambitious Lovers, an 80s duo he formed with keyboardist Peter Scherer. And if there was no more to Cuidado Madame than that, this would still qualify as a fine album.
Lindsay, however, isn’t one to lay out thirteen years only to come back and completely repeat himself, and here he achieves separation through the lively rhythms originally meted out on atabaques, or Brazilian hand drums. From these foundations he laid over lyrics, melodies and textures that are leading edge not within any of the components, but how they are put together: it’s an odd but intoxicating blend of Afro-Brazilian mythology and First World urbanity.
With songs are largely built from the rhythms up, you can dance if you want to, but their trance-like quality can make you sit down and get lost in them as well. “Each To Each” would have worked just dandy as a lounge ballad and it’s easy to imagine it with only vocal and piano. Sliding in that chugging rhythm and gurgling synths puts it into a whole ‘nother level; it’s leagues more sophisticated and esoteric. Similarly, the stilted, programmed beats on “Grain By Grain” add form to the ambiguous harmony.
The mystical quotient only grows when Lindsay chooses to sing in his native Portuguese tongue, such as on “Seu Pai” or the seductively strange “Ilha Dos Prazeres” previously premiered on this space. “Vao Queimar Ou Botando Pra Dancar” goes even further into the ether, doing away with keyboards altogether and putting Lindsay’s angular guitar skronk as the only thing standing between the start-stop funk rhythms and Lindsay’s floating voice.
“Arto Vs. Arto” trades in the sensuous smooth surfaces for looped snarls jousting with a Derek Bailey guitar that reach all the way back to his days with no-wave pioneers DNA. On the flip side, the lush and luminous textures of the jazz-pop chant “Tangles” has such crossover appeal, it’s easy to forget that there’s an tenacious Afro-Latin pulse laboring underneath it.
Tracks such “Uncrossed” and “Deck” fall somewhere in the middle on the freak meter, melding stirring strains that embrace you with experimental, noisy synth shards that confront you. After all this, ending the album with “Pele De Perto” — an unabashedly straight and all-acoustic Brazilian folk ballad in the tradition of Antonio Carlos Jobim — might come across as the biggest shock, but a pleasant one nonetheless.
There’s said to be a ‘sexy’ Arto and a ‘scary’ Arto. For anyone craving music that is richly sexy and obliquely scary, there won’t be a better release this year than Cuidado Madame.
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