To name yourself Lil T-Shirt and release a song (and video) as pastorally unnerving as Summer throws one for a bit of a loop. Albeit, a hypnotic one.
Picture, if you will, an idyllic river at dusk. Three females dressed in white-lace gliding along its glass-like surface with an unconscious male in toe. Who are these women with such expressionless eyes? Where is their boat headed? One can’t be sure, however the tunnel of optimism grows dimmer and dimmer by the minute.
As the video cross-cuts to hours earlier, happier times are ostensibly afoot. Our male lead, now awake, sits as passenger of a pick-up. Racing along a desolate dirt road, he’s revealed as Lil T-Shirt himself, whispering his muted lyrics in the presence of a mysterious female chauffeur.
Directed by Scandinavian filmmaker Ottilia Wahl, Summer incites curiosity as much as it plays with the macabre, leaving the viewer to assess both the visuals and the music as one. Lil T-Shirt, hailing from Sweden, blends trap, R&B, and twinkling minimalism with an experimental bent. Call it unorthodox, it nevertheless pairs perfectly with Wahl’s gothic imagery. As Lil T-Shirt sings about a romance gone awry, Wahl interprets the words on his own terms, creating darkness as beauty and love as unforgiving.
“Summer is the dark ending to a love story,” explains Wahl. “A young woman drives her lover out to the countryside to have him killed by her friends. We don’t know why, if he knows what’s about to happen, if he goes willingly or not, or what has happened between them. We will never know.”
Shot with sharp focus of humankind and nature side-by-side, cinematic debts to Terrence Malick and Sofia Coppola are ripe for comparison. In fact, the powerful artistic product almost works in reverse, with Lil T-Shirt’s music acting as the soundtrack to Wahl’s unintentional short film.
That aside, the combination remains winning, creating an intoxicating odyssey where beauty radiates from the grave with Lil T-Shirt’s musical vision at its mysterious core.