Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Arto Lindsay

  • O Corpo Sutil/The Subtle Body [Bar/None, 1996] A-
  • Mundo Civilizado [Bar/None, 1997] A+
  • Noon Chill [Bar/None, 1998] B+
  • Prize [Righteous Babe, 1999] A-
  • Invoke [Righteous Babe, 2002] *
  • Salt [Righteous Babe, 2004] A-
  • Cuidado Madame [Northern Spy, 2017] ***

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

O Corpo Sutil/The Subtle Body [Bar/None, 1996]
For over a decade, while Lindsay promoted samba's whispery vocals and fancy-pants chords as makeout music for sensual intellectuals, many who by some mischance lacked Portugese continued to find those very selling points precious, schlocky, or both. So now Arto flexes his connections and writes his own jazzboistic verse, and, well, there's nothing like a lyric you can understand. After leading with something about the colors of the sky that's way too sensitive for this reporter, the man sounds like the bedroom astronaut he says he is even when he's celebrating a superbright two-year-old on the most seductive song here--even when he reverts to Portugese. Reason to regret one's unimaginative personal relationship with Caetano Veloso. A-

Mundo Civilizado [Bar/None, 1997]
Even when he was an enraged and alienated No Wave mutant there was wit and rhythm in his tantrums, and it was only a few years after he unveiled DNA and undermined the Lounge Lizards that this shy, suave, calculating lover boy bowed as a crooner. But even so it's wonderful and normal that he's grown up this far. Laying drum 'n' bass on deep Bahia, boldly and reverentially covering the two premier African-American singers of our era, hocking Brazilian tunes from Caetano Veloso on down, he calmly and erotically bridges English and Portugese, art tourism and manor-born tropicalia, self-conscious sweetness and unkempt literacy. This be lounge-torch jungle-samba: a fragile, lyrical, sly, beatwise, embarrassingly beautiful cross-cultural appropriation that just goes to show how people grow up and settle down even when they don't. A+

Noon Chill [Bar/None, 1998]
Lindsay has always promoted samba as the mother lode of contemporary artsong, and after several hommages this is where he claims auteurship. Highly verbal, very textured, kinda lovely. But only on "Simply Are" does song sweep art off its fundament. I like my sex subtle sometimes, but never this subtle--which goes double for beats. B+

Prize [Righteous Babe, 1999]
Although he'll never make as much money at it as the samba masters he takes after, Lindsay's jeu d'esprit has turned modus operandi. He seems fully capable of an album like this every year or two: a dozen or so songpoems in English or Portuguese, floating by on the sinuous current and spring-fed babble of a Brazilian groove bent, folded, spindled, and mutilated by the latest avant-dance fads and electronic developments. The weak link is the poetry, which wouldn't be as fun as the music even if it was as well-realized. The selling point is the fads and developments, and the faux-modest singing that renders them so organic. A-

Invoke [Righteous Babe, 2002]
never think samba can't accommodate, and indulge, the abstruse ("Invoke," "Ultra Privileged") *

Salt [Righteous Babe, 2004]
Use it atmospherically, always a temptation with Lindsay's mutant samba, and the textures remain textures. Crank it up, and out of the trad percussion and futuristic programming leap Hiroshi Sunairi's performance-art vocal, Vernon Reid's acoustic guitar, Sandra Park's viola da gamba. Lyrics come clearer, too--especially in the translated Portuguese. A-

Cuidado Madame [Northern Spy, 2017]
Bent sambas I expect straighten out quicker for those who understand the Portuguese four of them are written in ("Grain by Grain," "Arto Vs. Arto") ***

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