Cleo Sol has an excellent artistic strategy: make something great, release it, and then disappear back to her family, and – no doubt – the studio. Dipping in and dipping out when she feels ready, this sense of control pervades her work – whether it’s the intensity of Sault or the languid neo-soul of the songwriting released under her own name, every single detail is attended to.
‘Gold’ is her second album to be released in two weeks. While it’s a hopeless endeavour to compare and contrast unique artistic works, Clash endeavours to say the following: while ‘Heaven’ felt like a mood piece, ‘Gold’ is more defined, the music more sketched out, and with more evident strengths. Obviously everything Cleo Sol releases is excellent, it’s just that some projects are more excellent than others – in the Cleo Sol league table, this is challenging for a European spot.
‘There Will Be No Crying’ is a breathless urge for hope, a gospel-tinged exhortation towards optimism. ‘Reason’ charms with its low-key reggae edge, the supple low-end and gentle skank pointing towards that terrific lineage of Black Caribbean soul music.
‘Things Will Get Better’ embodies the quiet strength Cleo Sol has long-since made her own, her voice coupled to one of the album’s more lush, widescreen arrangements. By contrast, ‘Only Love Can Wait’ switches it up – little more than voice and piano, it’s a shockingly intimate experience.
‘Please Don’t End It All’ is a message from the brink, a poem from the precipice, while the ethereal ‘Lost Angel’ is a warming sonic bath, the waters tapping at your side, drawing your further into the safety of the depths. All clipped guitars and inventive percussive ticks, ‘Desire’ has the feel of a vintage Curtis Mayfield production, while also embodying the freshness and verve with which Cleo Sol attacks every single project.
‘Life Will Be’ rotates around that wonderful bass line, the whole arrangement centred on its inventive elasticity. Rugged yet also light in its touch, Cleo Sol inspires with lyrics like: “I can see the sadness in your eyes / I can see the magic in your life…”
Closing with the wonderfully absorbing title track, ‘Gold’ is a record that dares to be optimistic in an increasingly dark world. It’s soulful euphoria as a form of protest, a song cycle that revels in the quiet power of connection; in a catalogue replete with soaring highs, ‘Gold’ touches the clouds.
Words: Robin Murray