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Summer Of Love (Poison City)


SUMMER IS MEANT TO BE the epitome of the best times isn’t it? Summer love is like no other love, everything is hot and loose and barely covered, summer loving had me a blast, sultry and tingling and fuelled by cocktails, ‘tis moonlight, summer moonlight, all soft and still and fair.

Yeah, but what about the sticky stinky pall of humidity and the empty stretch of torpor? The wrecking ball of violent storms and those nights of sudden chill that always catch you out? The forced bonhomie of cocktail nights when you still leave alone, or even worse, the slow playing out of a night in company when you just want to be alone?

Jess Ribeiro’s summer of love is more complicated, more conflicted, more graded than easy clichés could contain. This is an album that offers comfort in cracks of sunlight and moments that soothe dark tempered burns. It’s an album that remembers “I wove a mat made of many coloured threads/And hung it up to cover up the hole/Oh love we hold each other up” and describes “Woven clover/Limbs and flesh/Lost where you end and I begin/Paradise”. And it’s an album that celebrates the fact that “My heart is opening again … Your heart is opening/Your heart is opening again”.

But it is also an album that looks squarely at something more pitted and more easily rotted. One that sees the “Barbed wire fence around me/Trying to act tough/Heavy arms made of lead/Silver hands feeling cold” and hears a call to “Take the knife/Sacrifice the sheep/Kill your darlings”. It reverberates under circling birds asking “Can you feel all the fears/People crying/Children play night and day/Don’t forget them” and two songs later, the green light shining into the bathroom, repeating that “Children play In the darkest hours/Don’t forget/Children play night and day/Don’t forget them”.

And in all of these songs, Ribeiro seems alarmingly close, peaking over your shoulder and murmuring her thoughts to you and only you. Maybe only to you because she doesn’t trust exactly where these thoughts will lead but has a sense that they must be shared.

So the voice in The Trees And Me is languid and pained in equal measure, while in Helicopter it hesitates at the edge of the agitated violin but seems happy to fall into the maelstrom hinted at. Through Maybe If I Wore Sunglasses Inside I Won’t Feel Tired Ribeiro could be a breath or two away from giving in completely or dismissing out of hand, and in the title track, every moment of gentleness and openness that reaches out to touch, just like the glancing strings, seems so fragile that you aren’t sure it would survive contact with your skin.

The subtly expansive instrumentation plays the same part. In Paradise, trumpet and scatterings of drums feel like soft pockets of warm air and Jump The Gun propels through a monochromatic bassline that is an insistent light wind. Wake In Fright balances the slight chill in the piano with a rustic horn that emerges as an echo of the voice, while Everything Is Now underscores the lost ambling of the vocals and the searching, reverberating guitar with a flute that undulates over a rhythm that you realise has always been pointing to a destination.

Call this a summer of love? Not all love, not all summers, run hot and fevered you know.




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