It has been a dozen years and various personnel shifts since the famed Portuguese group Madredeus began its musical journey, in the process becoming one of Lisbon's most identifiable musical exports. Initially, the group, founded by charter members Pedro Ayres Magalhaes and Rodrigo Leao, sought to expand on the influence of Portuguese fado, one of those musical traditions in the world melding sophistication and folk-like rootsy-ness. Along the way, they picked up followers of their often soothing, intriguing stylistic blend, including German director Wim Wenders, who used their music as the soundtrack for his film Lisbon Story.
On the latest album, O Paraiso (Metro Blue 7243; 70:06), the group emerges with new members and a retooled, smoothened sound. Nylon string guitars provide rippling arpeggiated patterns over warm synth beds, and vocalist Teresa Salgueiro sings tunes with a deceptive simplicity. Part of the band's charm, now as before, is that its music sounds like folk music, but with a pedigree you can't quite place.