STRIKINGLY BEAUTIFUL, TINGED with a dark streak of mystery, the ethereal voice of Teresa Salgueiro seems to have escaped from an angel choir. Set adrift over a moody, yet compelling mix of cello, ruminative Spanish guitars, a bittersweet accordion and sometimes a discreet synthesizer, Salgueiro's vocals sound like a soul yearning for fulfillment or truth or something equally elusive.
In fact, Madredeus's music is a kind of Portuguese blues, derived from the intensely melancholic, traditional Portuguese music called fado. Formed by rock musicians Pedro Ayres Magalhaes and Rodrigo Leao, the group recruited classical cellist Francisco Ribeiro and young fado singer Salgueiro, dropped fado's trademark 12-string Portuguese guitar, and changed the lyrical focus from personal angst to impressionistic sketches of more universal themes. The result is music that retains fado's spirit and haunting melodicism but with a new twist. Its subtle elegance almost suggests New Age music, except that Madredeus's arrangements are complex, and every note is flooded with emotion. It is so affecting that German director Wim Wenders gave the band's music a prominent role in his latest film, Lisbon Story (which hasn't yet been released in the U.S.).
On O Espírito da Paz (Spirit of Peace), Madredeus reaches emotional peaks on "Ao Longe O Mar (The Faraway Sea)," where Salgueiro's soprano soars with ineffable yearning over rococo guitar work, and on the simmering "Vem (Come)," where accordion,
flamenco-style guitar and cello conjure up deep drama. Salgueiro calls Madredeus's music a form of contemplation. But it's far from complacent; there's too much passion invested in this music to mistake it for a sedative. (Rick Mason)