Populous' Andrea Mangia continues his musical travels with Azulejos, a set of songs inspired by -- and made from -- the music and sounds of his extended stay in Lisbon, Portugal. Armed with a laptop, keyboard and samples from field recordings, and albums of indigenous music from the city's flea markets, his approach is similar to that of his excellent previous album Night Safari, but where that album felt like a fantastical grand tour, this time Mangia stays in one locale and savors its delights. He fashions all of these sounds into impressionistic mosaics -- the album's title even refers to the tiled facades popular in Portugal -- that are both festive and soothing. Repeated motifs like cheers and crickets on songs such as the title track strengthen the album's hypnotic pull as its tracks waft between the heart of the party and its contemplative edges like a changing breeze. Bouncing basslines, ricocheting electro-toms, and lively chromatic percussion define the most danceable moments, which include "Alala," "Caparica," and "Racatin." Meanwhile, the gorgeous "Azul Oro" -- which features vocals courtesy of Ela Minus -- floats into softer territory as it follows a summer day into night, and "Mi Sueno" makes the album's dreamlike feel explicit with its title and winding synths and flutes. Equally smooth and engaging, Azulejos is at once hazy and vivid, like memories of an amazing vacation. Even if it's not quite as ambitious as Night Safari, Mangia perfectly captures how the spirit of a place can stay with you long after you've left.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares