Cibelle is a Brazilian artist who doesn't play "Brazilian" music at all. Her first gigs were on the Sao Paulo club scene at the end of the Nineties, and soon afterwards, she was chosen to record smoky lead vocals for the late Serbian producer Suba's 2001 masterpiece Sao Paulo Confessions, which mixed bossa and electronics to powerful effect.
After the release of her acclaimed debut album in 2003, she upped and moved to London, trailing all sorts of musical ideas in her wake. Her ambitious second album, The Shine of Dried Electric Leaves, was released last summer. When she plays in Brazil now, it's as an "international artist".
Her line-ups and collaborators have chopped and changed. Brazilian producer Apollo and Tunng's Mike Lindsay helped to shape the kitchen-sink electronica on Dried Electric Leaves. While her first group in London featured a Hammond organ, now her band's kit could be packed in hand luggage. Tonight's gig is in a basement bar in Dalston, east London, where Cibelle has based herself in a household of artists and musicians. It's very much a hometown gig on her month-long UK tour.
The audience is packed tight around the little stage as Cibelle and her two bandmates (fellow housemates, apparently) set up. Bits of electronic kit are spread out on an ironing board, and once they're all wired up, Cibelle begins by sinking a high, wavering note into one of two hand-held mics, her distinctive voice sampled and looped on the spot and built up into a giddy choral of vocal patterns rising and dying away. She steps back, smiling and holding up to the same mic a grainy Dictaphone recording of her vocals, which begins repeating and expanding like some kind of musical fractal over the acoustic drum and bass lines while she sings a cappella into another, uninflected mic; it' a brilliantly realised demonstration of vocal prowess and seemingly off-the-cuff mixing.
Her cover of Tom Waits's "Green Grass" is a highlight, its light rain of silvery blues delivered by Cibelle on guitar, while her band comes into its own behind a straight, true vocal. Her songs are full of found sound textures – spoons, coffee cups, sugar cubes, lighters, car keys are all on her instrument list. For audience participation, she has us rattle our change, keys and jewellery while her housemates, including support act Josh Ritter, climb up on stage and more or less do the same. Cibelle clearly understands the childlike allure of instant experimentation and diversion, and in an intimate gig like this, it slips in perfectly to what's going on. She doesn't even have to loop it.Reuse content