Lulacruza: Do Pretty!

Pair luscious female vocalizing with South American rhythms and instrumentation and you get… Lulacruza, but you're forgiven if you said Savath & Savalas. It's not so much that the two groups sound alike as that there are few such outfits in operation (in fact, the snappy funk pulse and South American vibe makes “Pensar Bonito” sound more like an out-take from Slicker's We All Have A Plan than Apropa't). Truth is, the oddly-named Do Pretty! proves that the slightly more song-oriented Lulacruza, comprised of Argentinean Luis Maurette and Colombian Alejandra Ortiz, is every inch a match for Scott Herren's S&S. Even better, Lulacruza segues from intimate songcraft to experimental settings with preternatural ease. The group's instrumental palette is kaleidoscopic with found sounds, field recordings, and electronics enriched by bombo, tar, maracón, tiple, and cajón.

Lulacruza's experimental side emerges repeatedly. Kranky artist Gregg Kowalsky lends electronic colour to the meditative “Maremoto y Gotear” while “Cueva, Utero, Trueno” struggles to maintain balance amidst opposing tensions, with Ortiz's voice a stabilizing centre for James Sinclair's electronic fuzz on one side and a percussion section on the other. Hazy instrumentals (“Children,” “Escafandra”) reveal the duo to be as adept at deeply textured soundscapes as it is vocal songs. Still, as much as the group impresses on other fronts, the strongest weapon in Lulacruza's arsenal is Ortiz's voice, an instrument of marvelous versatility and tonal colour. Her multi-tracked singing buoys the already-lilting “El Conocimiento” and proves entrancing on the lullaby drone “Serpenterio.” The tender ballad “Sheltered Me” closes the album in particularly lovely fashion, with Ortiz draping a torch-laden vocal over Quentin Sirjacq's ruminative piano playing against the distant echo of swooping bird cries. Do Pretty! impresses as a remarkably poised and assured collection, and even more so when one considers that it's the group's debut.

August 2006