There’s so much to say about SOPHIE and yet there are not enough words to describe her essence. Emerging on the scene around 2010, her career is embedded in a variety of projects that include producing pop records, her own music, and even scoring short films such as Dear Mr/Mrs. Associated with the likes of A.G. Cook and his label PC Music, SOPHIE successfully broke out into her own persona that sparked the curiosity of sound design fiends everywhere. We’ve been mesmerized by her work and anxiously anticipating her debut album since its announcement last week, and it’s finally here in all its sweet, phenomenal glory.
The cover art says it all for OIL OF EVERY PEARL’s UN-INSIDES: breathtaking, enigmatic, and mystifying. The album opens with “It’s Okay To Cry,” the 2017 single that stole the hearts of listeners around the world. The music video depicts SOPHIE singing up in the clouds in a peculiar, yet captivating manner. It’s only fitting that this song introduces listeners to a new world crafted by SOPHIE, giving us a familiar taste as if it were a shot of liquor we haven’t had in years. Other singles that landed in the album’s tracklisting are “Ponyboy” and “Faceshopping,” which both garnered praise for their utterly unique production.
“Is It Cold In the Water?” is the first single off the album’s tracklisting we haven’t heard before. She opens with the line “I’m freezing / I’m burning / I’ve left my home” as a high-pitched synth melody dances behind her. Both her voice and the melody grow louder as if they’re approaching quickly, like a runaway train hurtling towards you. She eases up and begins the race again, playing with our suspense like it’s her own little game; in fact, it is her game. And we’re all more than willing to be played. The end of this song bleeds into the next, titled “Infatuation.” SOPHIE presents an utterly strange vocal in the introduction, which turns into faint whispers, discomforting warbling, and echoing choirs. In all, it’s a clash of vocals that when put together create a haunting soundscape only SOPHIE is capable of pulling off.
“Not Okay” is the most shocking of all. It’s a cacophony of sound design, bold synth melodies, and brilliantly chopped up vocal samples. Best described as an audiophile’s wet dream, SOPHIE manipulates bass into a violent storm of her bizarre consciousness. She urges you to bathe in sound on “Pretending,” a moody, ominous production meant for a strange meditation ritual. It’s the perfect pause after the destruction of “Not Okay,” urging listeners to sit back and explore within. Halfway through the song, the production gets gritty and distorted as if you’re stuck inside a glitch in the simulation. More of SOPHIE’s freakish vocal samples make an appearance for the conclusion of “Pretending,” screaming at high frequencies with the desire to be noticed. Following this, a swift change in attitude introduces the next song. “Immaterial” features SOPHIE’s fun personality represented through bubbly synth melodies and ultra-auto-tuned pop vocals. It sounds like a play on Madonna’s infamous single “Material Girl,” except it’s jacked up to an extreme level of ditzy pop stylings.
Finally, she closes the album with “Whole New World/Pretend World.” Clocking in at nine minutes, this song is a journey through SOPHIE’s impeccable sound design prowess. Those who attended FORM Arcosanti this year will recognize this song from her extraordinary set — it’s one of those experiences that’s hard to shake. There’s so much going on in this song: siren-like synths, thunderous bass, contradicting vocal samples; ultimately, it’s an amalgamation of chaos that presents itself like a swarm of wasps. It goes on and on and on, becoming stronger with each second that passes by until she suddenly cuts us loose and sends us off into the world again.
That last song wholly represents what’s so fucking brilliant about SOPHIE: she has this incredible way of pushing us to our breaking point through sound, hanging her hat on ear-splitting frequencies and never-before-heard sound design to get right into the untouched corners of our brain through our ears. There’s simply no artist like SOPHIE. She does it best, because it’s so unapologetically, incredibly herself.
Listen to OIL OF EVERY PEARL’s UN-INSIDES below.