Jess Ribeiro’s third album LOVE HATE is out now – via Barely Dressed Records/Remote Control Records. Arriving four years after the release of her acclaimed second album Kill It Yourself the wait for a new body of work has well and truly been worthwhile.
LOVE HATE is confirmation (if ever it was needed) that Ribeiro is one of this country’s most gifted and enigmatic songwriters, a master of genre, nonchalance, double-entendre, intuition and melody – she makes it sound so easy to get under your skin.
For Ribeiro, making a record is a lot like falling in love: it’s a dive into the unknown buoyed only by the belief that the currents will carry you somewhere new. With album number three, the analogy could not be more apt. On LOVE HATE Ribeiro traverses the landscapes of love: its amorous peaks, its turbulent rivers, and its dark valleys. While writing the album, Ribeiro discovered that Arabic literature divides love into stages; attraction, passion, infatuation, adulation, longing, submissiveness, and madness. Seven phases were also defined by the 19th-century French writer Stendhal, whose De l’amour was written while half-deranged with desire. What if an album could chart a similar life-cycle?
Producer Ben Edwards (Aldous Harding, Julia Jacklin, Marlon Williams) immediately took to the idea. “We had ten days to make it so I wanted to enjoy it.” What resulted was an entirely new sound. Ribeiro kissed the swampy humidity of the Australian Music Prize-nominated Kill It Yourself goodbye, and embraced the precise down-strokes and valve-amp hum of a very New York lineage, from the Velvets through to Blondie and Talking Heads. It’s capped by those lethally cool vocals for which she is revered.
Fellow Melburnian multi-instrumentalists Jade McInally (Jade Imagine) and Dave Mudie (Courtney Barnett) were recruited for their nimble pop chops, and recording commenced in February 2017 at Edwards’ studio in Lyttelton, on the South Island of New Zealand. Lyttelton is an industrial seaport that never sleeps, and the sirens, which sound every few hours, can be heard on one of the album’s three vignettes, ‘You Should Be with Me’. You could say that the album’s vignettes are the ghosts of unrequited love, rising out of silence, and then fading away. ‘Spirit in White’ could be a lost Lou Reed jam, while ‘Cry Baby’ is a shard of what was a raw, 15-minute post-breakup rant.
Opening track ‘Stranger’ echoes the infatuation of our poet Stendhal, and his recognition that “This is a love that lives only through the imagination”; Ribeiro’s voice a narcotic purr. In ‘Love is the Score of Nothing’, she nails Nico at her most unphased: “Sometimes you have to admit romantic defeat / I’m back on the street, alone this time / Singing ‘Love is the score of nothing’”. But LOVE HATE is also powered by pure energy at times. Take third single ‘Chair Stare’ – a primal scream from the libido, written on a creative jaunt in Berlin. ‘Goodbye Heart’, recorded in the same city with Einstürzende Neubauten’s Alexander Hacke, pays homage to Suicide’s Alan Vega, who had died the day before. It may have the balm of Ribeiro’s soporific delivery, but it feels as though there’s something more sinister lurking beneath the surface. The centrepiece is ‘Young Love’, about a teenage couple Ribeiro saw entwined at a tram stop. With the guitar swapped out for a Nord, and the beats spare and dramatic, it’s the synth soundtrack for a doomed romance movie.
Love of a more transcendent kind is honoured in ‘Lay Down with the Earth’. It’s inspired by Tamil refugees who shared their stories of connecting with the earth when sick or grieving, and features a guest spot from theremin player Miles Brown. LOVE HATE closes with the woozy, Dusty Springfield-like ‘Crawling Back to You’, in which a former lover is protected and avenged: “Don’t worry … she’ll be crawling back to you when I’m through with her”. It’s a reminder that even when we’ve experienced a love bigger than ourselves, the kind that puts everything into perspective, it’s easy to slip back into the minutiae and the drama. Perhaps it’s the sign that we’re ready to begin the cycle again.
Special G\guests Leah Senior & Galaxy Hop.
Tickets $15 plus BF HERE | $20 on the door | 9pm