Magic unfolds when an artist has a clear view of the means with which they articulate themselves. The flow that presents itself between concept, process, and audience is where we find our relationship with the whole. It’s where we come together. OIL OF EVERY PEARL’s UN-INSIDES – the debut album of SOPHIE – is clearly interested in the dialogue between artist, work, and audience. However, hers are a unique set of concerns. She toys with the balance between projection and perception to reveal a direction that pop seldom explores.
A self-consciously smudged title; the toying with internal negatives to produce a beautiful openness, is a measure of how SOPHIE handle’s all aspects of her work. The producer/artist tagged as being amongst the most evocative and unique thinkers in pop reshapes what it means to garner broad appeal. This is album is served for everyone, but only if everyone works through the abstraction of familiar tropes. SOPHIE laces every element with a kind of over-work, over-detailing, cubism that leads to a clarity of vision rarely achieved.
Glossy elements of pop are amped all the way beyond usual requirements. Balance tips in the favor of the overstatement, to a point where overstatement becomes poetic. The tracks here are not rants. They fall just short of overreaching. Yet, what SOPHIE does as an artist is pursue the furthest reach of a beat, a hook, a texture of a phrase. The vocal performances here reflect the works of the great divas that have come before, but they deal with hyper-realism. Not a pastiche, not a derivative take on the classic scales – SOPHIE transposes tones within a breath, and so leads the ear through a string of pleasing contortions. There’s a showiness to the display, but it’s not all just for show.
The three tracks we’ve previously heard as singles, “It’s Okay To Cry”, “Ponyboy”, and “Faceshopping“, open the sequence in the order of initial release. This feels like a launchpad, preparing listeners for a flight into the unknown. The following tracks carry titles like leading statements. “Not Okay”, “Immaterial”, “Pretending” tag an undercurrent of gamesmanship within relations – but they also expose a kind of soliloquy that lends tone to the album.
In all aspects of her work, from writing, production, insane live shows, and video pieces, SOPHIE appears to acknowledge that she is writing for herself, and to herself – but in front of a collective. Any concern of external judgement is well concealed. The key components of an issue are extracted, chopped up, and scrutinized. As an observer to this process you become part of the initiated, and so the relationship with artist is strangely intimate.
A track like “Infatuation”, one of the smoother, more traditionally beautiful moments of the album, seeks to explore the nature of all targets. What compels us to pursue one thing is what compels us to pursue all things. The spiraling oddness of the opening vocal is a highlight.
Closing track, “Whole New World: Pretend World” is a collapsing of sounds. A kind of stadium techno that playfully trips on it’s own beat. SOPHIE draws a line through her palette, and then folds progress in on itself. It’s a remarkable conclusion to an experimental album where hyper-realism exposes an inner dialogue. This deliberate subversion from expectation is key to unlocking the whole. As closing statements go this confession of fabrication is grand. No one has ever done pop like this.
HURRY – LISTEN – SOPHIE
PHOTOGRAPH – CHARLOTTE WALES