Local genre-blurring label Six Degrees poses an unlikely question with its latest release: What kind of music would a Yugoslavian-bred musician and composer trained in jazz and classical make if he moved to São Paulo and fooled around with electronic equipment? In the case of Suba (who died recently in Brazil), the somewhat unexpected answer is Kruder & Dorfmeister without their overt references to hip hop or drum 'n' bass. The internationally recognized breakbeat is actually present on almost every cut, but the infusion of Afro-Brazilian drumming and other native polyrhythms elicits fewer head-nods than the traditional b-boy beat. São Paulo Confessions inspires more of a gentle, whole-body sway -- a physical response not quite at home either in the chill-out room or on the dance floor, at least as they're presented here in the Northern Hemisphere.
Suba's classical background is evident in the symphonic atmospheres he paints, by far the most endearing aspects of the album. He has a thorough, unconventional understanding of the ways piano, synthesizer, female vocals, and the occasional violin interrelate to produce delicate melodic moods that are much more subtle and complex than are usually found in electronic music. But Suba obviously doesn't have the same level of familiarity with the dance musician's ultimate tool: the studio. The songs lack the thickness and substance necessary to win over many beatheads -- the drum machine isn't the backbone, but just one thread in the fabric, equal in importance to every other element. This is likely a symptom of the re-emerging aesthetic principle in São Paulo of Atropofagia, an approach dating from the 1920s that aims at swallowing North American culture and spitting it back out as something uniquely Brazilian.
The enchanting 21-year-old jazz chanteuse Cibelle brings a Stereolab feel to three of the tracks, and expansive, live drumming is contributed by Joao Parahyba on half of São Paulo Confessions. The disc is unquestionably a compelling collaboration of artists and worldly influences, but only a few very memorable songs rise to the top of the blend. "Tantos Desejos (So Many Desires)," "Sereia (Mermaid)," and "A Noite Sem Fim (The Endless Night)" are easily worthy of inclusion on one of the quality international electronic compilations like Future Sounds of Jazz. The rest merely serve as the glue that holds the remainder of the album together; not weak by any means, just not fully realized expressions of so many styles and sounds.