Album Appreciation: Toquei no Sol by Marlene Ribeiro

Such things tend to be a moveable feast but, almost a year after its release, my favourite album of last year is still ‘Flowers Rot, Bring Me Stones’ by Moundabout… I love it because of the way it reflected the liminality of the sacred site featured in the album, but also the duo’s own sense if liminality… as I wrote at the time:

[This] is a set that feels very organic, very grounded, and very connected… there is depth and emotion here… but there is also something that is focussed… it is like you are witnessing a moment of clarity… something that is in itself a liminal moment in the process of making music where it all seems to have come together and allowed Shine and Masterson to capture that moment.

I have started with this because I find this debut album by Marlene Ribeiro (at least under her own name) to display similar qualities. This could be a lazy comparison given that Ribeiro, like Paddy Shine of Moundabout, both feature prominently in the prolific sound/ noise collective that is GNOD… and that both albums come out on Rocket Recordings (‘Toquei no Sol’ is co-released by Portuguese label Lovers and Lollipops)… but, musically, they are very different with the Moundabout leaning more towards folk, while Ribero’s album nods in the direction of dreampop. What they both have is a deep sense of connectivity with their environment… but also a strong relationship with the psychological and non-rational… and both albums reach right inside me as a consequence.

Focussing on ‘Toquei no Sol’ the first thing I would say is that, like folk music, dreampop is not my bag as a rule… but there is something about the psychedelic depth of this record that has had a similar personal effect on me. This kicks in pretty much at the opening of the opening track ‘Quatro Palavras’… with field recordings from her Grandmother’s kitchen and her Grandmother’s vocals you are immediately hit with a sense of place and feeling of belonging… this, it feels, goes very deep and sets the tone for the rest of the set… a powerful opening that is backed up immediately by Ribeiro’s music, which is delicate and heartfelt… like being pierced by a brittle icicle which melts when it comes into contact with your soul.

Nothing about this track, or this record, is hurried… and it demands that you too slow down and really take your time with it… the arrangements feeling deliberate and precise. There is also an otherworldly quality to ‘Quatro Palavras’, which continues into ‘Sangue de lua de lobo’ with it’s fragmented interconnection of field recordings and instruments (what sounds like wind chimes and wind instruments)… which leads me into this sense of liminality again. However, this is not the liminality of a single place… but of a number of places… the notion hinted at in the press release for this album as: “A travelogue that unites physical and inner space, a series of trance states rendered in vivid colour, a delirious portal into the ether.” This perhaps introduces another level of liminality since those travel portals themselves are by their very nature liminal… a connection between two places every bit as much as a connection between two states of mind… and ‘Sangue de lua de lobo’ feels very much likes this… in once sense languid, yet also deep once you feel tuned into it… for me it really exfoliates the mind.

After that the title track pursues the same sort of abstract journey but with a highly complex set of scenarios which engenders oases of thought which range from the post-industrial to the tropical… a repeating theme for me here being the notion of time as the melody is broken up with the sound of a clock… this is a track which inveigles itself into your being in a very different way as the beat gets under your skin… somehow smuggling in other ideas which only seem to bloom when you become mindful of them… a sense of place… but a different place, and a different sense of liminality

…then all of a sudden you are in a farmyard on ‘You Do It’… which develops into yet another transcendental trip, this time through a simple percussion track which sets the tone while the interspersing of Ribeiro’s vocals and (I think) a clarinet taking you deeper into the sound… this is another stopping point on this fragmented journey through Ribeiro’s experiences which rarely alight on anywhere solid… but through different shards of the looking glass.

I am struck by the lack of segue into ‘Forever’… it feels like a clean start… actually it most reminded me of the Besnard Lakes in the way Ribeiro’s vocals echo through the beginnings of the track. It is present in most of the album, but I am particularly struck by the ethereal quality of this number… there is a lot of space around the performance… as the listener you feel more like an observer, rather than a participant… and actually I like this moment where I don’t feel involved… there’s a strange sense of feeling refreshed by it…

The final track ‘What Is It’ is a more reflective piece which feels more cerebral than spatial… perhaps a final mental resting place which slowly picks up the pace as the track progresses… almost as if providing a cognitive off-ramp to take the listener into a post-liminal state. On its own, however, it is a lovely simple track full of space… full of room to breathe… and a satisfying end to what is an album that can be enjoyed on many levels.

Maybe I’m reading too much into this… but given the first side has Portuguese titles, and the second side English… I wonder if there is some linearity to this very rewarding album… and while it very much feels like a series of moments, perhaps there is some sort of progression that further listens might bring out. That is something to look forward to… all I can say at the moment is that what I feel about this album after a few listens is very much where I was with Moundabout at the same point… only time will tell whether it will cement itself as one I will come back to time and again… but the potential is certainly there.



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