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Cleo Sol’s Heaven is a splendid collection of autumnal vignettes


Release date: 15 September 2023
Cleo Sol Heaven cover
15 September 2023, 09:00 Written by Noah Barker

With a name currently more valuable than the collective oil reserves of America, Cleo Sol seems to organize her existence through the studio.

Her prolific output with producer Inflo as part of SAULT and within her own solo catalogue is dipped in personal turmoil yet dredged in testimonies of growth. Her previous solo outing, Mother, released in 2021, was the most singularly graceful way an artist could have gone about exhuming the skeletons in their closet while letting the listener into the healing process. SAULT has released over a dozen records in 4 years, with Heaven being her third solo record in that time span; needless to say, God has gifted a blessed few with expediency. Heaven is a brief, yet indulgent series of funk jams and sultry, lofi ballads, fit to make leaves age into Autumn based on atmosphere alone.

As the presence of God and faith become overarching narratives in her oeuvre, Heaven seems to brush all of her previous bases like she’s backtracking a foul ball. Paring down Mother’s 67-minute opus into 30 minutes of ruminations and snapshot instrumental ideas, Inflo and Sol’s pacing abilities are unmatched; even the briefest of encounters with ideas yield immediate attachment and longing after they’ve dissipated. Between the depth of the jazzy keys which begin the record, to the wonderfully breathy acoustics on the closer, any 10-second interval of the record displays lofi-comfort and high-fidelity creativity.

The title track feels fit for a flattering comparison to D'angelo's Voodoo, one that should elucidate just as much about Cleo’s vocal range as it does her musical range. As, moments after its conclusion, sparse pianos and densely layered harmonies agonize over lost acquaintance on “Old Friends.” The following “Miss Romantic” is a near-sickening reminder as to the talent of producer Inflo, showcasing his innate ability to make sonic mountains out of a few key sounds, or rather, how to make a groove with a drum, a bass, and a dream. Sol’s ascending harmonies in step with the fluttering guitar leads on this track mystify and enchant; it is one of the most resolutely groovy and endearing songs they’ve yet to write.

The dizzying rhythm sections of “Golden Child (Jealous)” and “Nothing on Me” sling the third leg of the record into car-crash velocity for its finale, the gentle “Love Will Lead You There.” It’s an instantly recognizable ballad from the pair whom I have every inclination to call the modern McCartney-Lennon: a badge often bestowed on inopportune candidates. But as the harmonies which close the track lead themselves out of the early autumn fog and back into view, it’s difficult to imagine what other songwriters, for the last 4 years, have done so much with so little time. What else can be said about Inflo and Cleo Sol except that they represent that oft-forgotten point of this art form: joy as an act of humanity.

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