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Live Review: Shake, get shaken and be shook by SOPHIE's debut 'Oil Of Every Pearl's Un-Insides'

15 June 2018 | 12:25 pm | Lloyd Crackett

SOPHIE's long-awaited debut album is a game-changing, ear-assaulting and emotionally raw journey into the depths of sound and self

If you’ve been a long-term SOPHIE fan, then today –the release day of Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides– is a glorious day. If you haven’t ever given her a chance, welcome to the reason why you’ll be pissed off at every mediocre producer you’ve ever let slip through your earholes.

SOPHIE’s debut album expands upon the first three singles into an immensely personal and thrilling journey through both sound and emotion. Now, with their greater context, the singles are the opening trio that lead you in: ‘It’s Okay To Cry’ rallies you into acknowledging your own emotional depth; ‘Ponyboy’ is thunderous and unapologetically sexual; and ‘Faceshopping’, through clever verse structure and a mechanic wall of sound, begins the foray into identity.

The singles set you up to explore the depths of the album. SOPHIE’s debut focuses on identity, discovery of it and the toll it takes getting there. The album is one transgender artist's journey with a project that’s creation began long before she ever publicly outed herself and provided a context the media previously assumed against. It is the private finally made public, it is vulnerable and it is unashamed.

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‘Is It Cold In The Water?’ is the first of the previously unreleased tracks, with vocal duties by MOZART’S SISTER, a long-time collaborator of SOPHIE’s. This track very obviously explains why the album, prior to its release, received the simple review “AHHHH [the] SOPHIE album is FUCKING MAJESTICCC” from legendary producer HUDSON MOHAWKE. An inescapable climb of synths that’d be home in any German club, it is set against the impeccable range of Mozart’s Sister, whose voice possess a frightfully human quality against music so cleanly produced. Yet, her vocals aren’t dulled as the lyrics and layered vocals convey the actual sorrow, the intended loneliness of the imagery, bobbing in the cold water, alone.

The build up of the song doesn’t lead to a drop, but the next track ‘Infatuation’ begins with edited vocals reminiscent of RADIOHEAD’s Kid A. ‘Infatuation’ develops the style ‘It’s Okay To Cry’ set out and provides a bridge to some of the louder tracks, starting off empty comparatively for a SOPHIE track and bringing in all manner of synths, even one that sounds like an electric guitar buzzed to 100. Highlights of the track include the repeating lyrics, "Infatuation, Who are you, out there, I want to know,"which sound distressed – are they to a lover or are they to herself?

‘Not Okay’ follows as the shortest of all the tracks and acts as a showcase of SOPHIE’s repertoire. Her use of synths to create almost physical sounds is terrifying, ascending vocals of ‘GIRRRRRRL’ throughout and rave-like synths make it feel like you’re supposed to dance but overall you’d be dumbstruck for how to move, before the surprise ambience of ‘Pretending’ stops you in your tracks. Consistent with her love of overwhelming with sound, it’s suggested you blast this at yourself with the best speakers you can at least once, as a form of detox from life’s ills.

Finally, we get to Immaterial’ that demonstrates the true power of SOPHIE. With the entire song focused on a choir-like chant of “Immaterial, Immaterial Boys, Immaterial Girls’, the song is simply a big fuck you to gender; it's immaterial so lets dance. It’s goddamn ecstatic with MOZART'S SISTER on vocal duties again, singing such lyrics as, ‘You could be me and I could be you, Always the same and never the same.” Serving as the happy culmination of the album, 'Immaterial' is about finding yourself and realising that the worries of the past are void. It doesn’t matter if you are a boy, girl, neither or defined in other ways – that’s immaterial. The track holds not just a message to the world but a message to and from SOPHIE herself: she can be ‘Anything I want, not matter where I go, you’ll be here in my heart." It’s a track of accepting, loving and being happy about it. It’s also a track that could truly shake the radio waves, begging bop-makers everywhere to pack more in.

The final track of the album is a hike, ‘Whole New World/Pretend World’ clocks in at over 9 minutes and is not for the faint of heart, employing every ounce of SOPHIE’s impressive sound design knowledge. Expect sirens, the transformer voice (for lack of better description), MOZART'S SISTER'S vocals, growls, the never-ending cascading of metal-like synths and the plethora of unnaturally organic noises that define the album’s style. This is SOPHIE's look at the future, she’s finally in control of the chaos and she can whip it into shape, and she can most definitely whip it into a 9 minute track that never lacks focus. It grows upon itself and heaves into a final hurrah fitting for such an album.

Oil of Every Pearls Un-insides is a difficult album. It doesn’t necessarily invite the listener in, and at times is an abrasive assault on the ears. It has no intention to let anyone glide by with easy listening. Instead, it's an emotionally raw take on a singular journey that many of us will never understand. But to those who do, it’ll be groundbreaking to see such an honest depiction of discovering the self. It’s an album that blurs the lines of dance, avant-garde and pop, all the while maintaining a message. While doing all of this, it also defines a new standard; an album can have moments of absolute chaos, pure noise and bangers ready to be trotted out on the radio yet still contain such a violently personal, queer-focused journey that hits highs and lows.

SOPHIE'S debut is an exciting release, not just as the follow-up to her previous EP, PRODUCT, or as the long-awaited release of tracks she’s been tearing up the world’s dancefloors with, but also as a statement that she is truly in the game and she’s pioneering it. She’s produced tracks for Madonna, Vince Staples and Let’s Eat Grandma, there are rumoured and unreleased tracks with artists like Brooke Candy, Kero Kero Bonito, Rihanna and more. She’s a goddamn queer powerhouse that’s only just beginning her reign, a reign that should keep everyone on their toes. SOPHIE’s here: she’s announced herself, her production is visceral and she knows her way around a bop and you better be ready.

Oil of Every Pearls Un-insides is out now via Future Classic.

Image: Supplied