"I like to be able to walk inside sound and touch this or that element," says Brazilian singer Cibelle from her home in London, England. "I have this song, then this world starts growing inside of my head and I start painting that song out. I embrace that poem with sounds that, let’s say, helps this poem reach where it has to go," she says. Her multi-layered songs are as much a product of the many facets of her personality as they are of continuous mixing of the tracks until she arrives at a magical formula.
As you talk to Cibelle, it doesn’t take long to recognize her playful and at time, almost childlike approach to both life and music. Those fanciful notions and frolicsome nature come to the forefront in "London, London," her music video shot a few years ago with Devendra Banhart. The video also provides insight into Cibelle’s passion for juxtaposing images and ideas. Banhart is dressed in period clothing, including a cravat and top hat, while Cibelle appears in a Victorian age dress, petticoat and carrying a parasol. The two of them ride in a carriage through the streets of London and at one point, roll their eyes heavenward as they sing, "looking for flying saucers in the sky." At another juncture the two can be seen dancing on the roof of a skyscraper. The music for "London, London" was originally penned by Caetano Veloso a folk hero in Brazil and someone who ironically enough was exiled to London in the early seventies.
Contrasting elements once again are front and center with the rhythmic "Noite de Carnaval," which has a deep bass line, even deeper percussion beats and the ethereal vocals of Cibelle.
The cover of Tom Waits’ "Green Grass" (The Shine of Dried Electric Leaves) provides the listener with romantic escapism. The unaffected vocals provide an innocence that does not contrasts subtly with the flirtatious lyrics. Green Grass has the fingerprints of Parisian sound engineer, Yann Arnaud.
To say that Cibelle’s approach to songwriting is unorthodox would be stating the obvious. She would have been hard pressed to push the envelope any further than she did with the creation of The Shine of Dried Electric Leaves. It is not all that unusual anymore to see more than one producer’s name appear in a CD’s liner notes, however it is extraordinary to discover that more than one producer worked on the same track as was the case for the CD The Shine of Dried Electric Leaves. Cibelle pushed the envelope on the project. "I thought I needed to go back to Sao Paulo (Brazil) and do some stuff with Apollo Nove. I was recording some music in London with Mike Lindsay (already). I thought if I could merge Apollo and Mike into one person, I would. They compliment each other so well. They have the same strange quirkiness and madness," she says.
"I took the five tracks that I had started with Mike back to Apollo in Brazil. I said you have about two weeks on your own to think about doing something. I had told Mike that was going to happen," she says.
The eighteen month project was infused with some songs that originated within jam sessions during her brief stay in Brazil. When it came time to cross the ocean again and return to Lindsay in London, she had twenty tracks tucked under her arm. "I said (to Mike), 'You have two weeks to chop, rework and sample one track to the next. Just let it all hang out and do your thing.' Think about you in love and how it would feel," she says.
It was not until she arrived in Paris to work with Arnaud that the project was finally completed.
The Shine of Dried Electric Leaves represents a further progression in the music of Cibelle. Her music has significantly matured since the release of her Six Degrees Records’ self-titled album in 2003. "I can clearly see the sounds changing throughout the years. I remember when I did my first album. I was very into aquatic sounds and feelings submerged with long, long delays. At the moment, I am very much in love with strings and the harp. I love contrasting things. On this album, I was very interested in the contrast between very earthy and glitzy sounds like shaker and little objects, and twinkling childish sounds on the high keys as well," she says. Cibelle confesses a fondness for the sound of a deep, upright bass.
It wasn’t long after the release of her debut album that Cibelle moved to England and she draws upon the energy of London and its people. Her daily experiences and encounters infuse her new music. "London contains the eccentric British. They fascinate me and I love them. They make me feel normal. There are many, many windows like Alice in Wonderland and all these little doors that you can open. You fall into these amazing weird universes and tasty stuff as well. The combination of all of that is quite exciting."
"I just love eavesdropping. If you go to a coffee shop with me and somebody else starts having a very interesting conversation while we are talking, I may just drift off and go, "oh, ya..ooohhh," she says mimicking fascination with an imaginary conversation.
Cibelle tells me that a lot of her songwriting starts to gel in those same coffee or tea shops and other quaint environments. "People tell tales and all kinds of things or nasty plans. Lots of things happen in coffee shops, especially near where I live. The subjects that I have been hearing in there are amazing-- they just haven’t made it to the papers yet," she confides in a tone almost suggesting that we have just scooped the tabloids. I guess you could safely say that Cibelle’s high octane caffeine adventures produce high octane music.
Cibelle lives in one of the artsy warehouse districts of London and finds she draws upon the energy of the artists and fashion students and it infuses her music.
In a little more than three years, Cibelle has established a strong following throughout Europe. Stops this fall on her gig tour have included Sweden, France, Switzerland, Italy and Germany. She also performed in Moscow in late October. Cibelle gives credit for a lot of her European popularity to a grassroots movement. Some people having heard her in concert will e-mail friends in other countries telling them about her upcoming concerts, or people have listened to some of her tracks on her Myspace website and directed others to her music.
Regardless of the venue or cultural setting, Cibelle does not compromise her music feeling it would only shortchange the fans that have come to hear the music to which they are accustomed. She says, "If you are always bending here and there you will lose your identity. We do the set that we do. I don’t change unless I have less time."
Despite being embraced by the European music scene, there is another kind of embrace that has left Cibelle feeling a little at odds with her own heritage. Coming from a warm Latin culture she was used to hugging and kissing everyone, but when she arrived in London’s more conservative social climate, she was met with restraint such as she had not experienced before. Not everyone was prepared to be greeted with a hug. "It’s okay sometimes (to learn) to just be quiet. Saying hello by shaking hands is just fine. Nobody is going to prosecute you for that," she says.
The pretty Brazilian talks in airy, half finished sentences and drifts off into conversations that seemingly take unannounced journeys down pathways that are simultaneously filled with wonderment, simplicity and sophistication. She is both eclectic and a contrast of styles in composition and performance. It would seem that the world is looking for that type of transparency for they have been flocking to the twenty-something singer’s music.