Writer: Kyle Wheelock
On Friday, June 15, electronic producer/DJ Sophie released her debut album Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides, nine tracks of experimental avant-pop. My first experience with Sophie’s music came on Vince Staples’ Big Fish Theory where she produced the tracks “Yeah Right” and “SAMO,” two electronic bangers that made up one of my favorite albums of 2017 (and probably all time, for that matter). From there, I dug through her catalogue, listening to her compilation album, Product and Charlie XCX’s Vroom Vroom EP, which was exclusively produced by Sophie. These two projects grabbed my interest; they’re very different sounds than the mainstream pop music you’d hear on the radio with a lot of brash and abrasive bass, high pitched vocals, and incredibly textured synthesizers. In general, Sophie’s music is all around chaotic and surreal , so don’t let the pop label trick you. Her music is insane and incredibly out of left field.
So what does all this mean for her debut album? In short, it’s madness, much inline with everything else I’ve heard from Sophie’s discography. The album starts with, “It’s Okay to Cry,” a gorgeous beat that has a sugary sweet polish and, for the first time, vocals from Sophie herself. I tend not to like when artists start whispering on their songs, it gives me major ASMR vibes that I’m not a fan of, but Sophie gets away with it on this opener. Lyrically, there isn’t much to break down here, it’s just the same handful of lyrics repeated over the instrumental, maybe to establish a theme. I’ve never been drawn to Sophie’s music for her lyrics, nor have I ever known her songs to be super substantive lyrically, so there isn’t too much else to say about the intro.
The next few tracks, however, are where things really go out the window. The track “Ponyboy” contrasts pretty noticeably with its trap snares and gritty, distorted kick drums that just keep hitting and don’t let up. And where “It’s Okay to Cry” had a really glossy synth, “Ponyboy” instead has a metallic one that appears only sparingly. If, “It’s Okay to Cry” was a dream, “Ponyboy” would be a nightmare.
A lot of these themes and styles are repeated on the succeeding tracks like “Faceshopping,” “Is It Cold In The Water,” and, “Pretending.” They all have this ethereal feel to them with dreamy vocals (provided by the talented Cecile Believe), unpredictable structures, and just beautifully crafted textures with varying synths and bass sounds all over the place. On my first listen, it was around this point where I really started to enjoy this album a lot. Don’t get me wrong, I consider myself a fan of Sophie and I was definitely feeling this album, but I didn’t know how much it would stick with me until I hit the later songs, specifically starting with “Pretending” which I don’t wanna gloss over because at 5:53, it’s the second-longest song on this album, and it definitely feels like a moment.
“Pretending” starts of more like a score in a sci-fi/horror film than it does an electronic pop song. A low, groaning tone starts the song, and it feels haunting more than anything. There’s no vocals, no percussion of any kind, just this mix of sounds that reminds me of the end of Interstellar, which I won’t spoil even though it’s more than four years old at this point. If you’ve seen it, you know which part I’m talking about. The only semblance of a person we get here is this really twisted and pitched up sample toward the end. The whole song is weird and is definitely more of the experimental side of this thing as it eventually morphs into what I think is a motorcycle starting up. If you’re not into more unorthodox music pieces, this might honestly come off as straight up garbage to you, but I didn’t interpret this as just another song on album so much as Sophie playing with and twisting waveforms of different instruments as a means of expression.
Again, that’s just my opinion on it personally, it really does feel like a really beautiful moment on here, but if you just hear a bunch of nothing, I can’t take that from you. “Pretending,” is totally open to interpretation. The next song however, “Immaterial,” is another total 180 from the song before it (and after it as well). “Immaterial,” for the most part, sounds like a traditional electronic pop song instrumentally. It’s super bright and grand, with this bouncy clap and kick pattern that is relatively tame considering the seven songs before it. The only thing out of place here are Believe’s vocals, which are again pitched up. They turn into this weird vocal rift toward the end that gets kind of ear grating just before it ends, which I’m not really a fan of, but they don’t ruin the song for me so I’ll let them slide.
Lastly, there’s the nine-minute closer to the album, “Whole New World/Pretend World,” a varying epic that starts with this in-your-face saw synth that borders on straight up static, but isn’t as dark as the other tracks mentioned above. If anything, it reminds me of dubstep (remember when that was a thing?) with the way the bass distorts and fluctuates early on. Around the two-ish minute mark, we get these strong, sort of dramatic vocals that pop up a few more times later on in the track. The song continues with gradual changes, a new synth here, a different percussion pattern there, and by the time we get to the five-six minute mark, it’s a completely different song than what we started with without a real point of change.
To me, this album is nothing short of amazing. It’s a tight 39:51 of experimenting and pop music. Sonically, it’s gorgeous and unpredictable at every moment. Just when you think you have Sophie figured out, she hits you with a mean switchup – you can’t expect the unexpected here. It’s only been a few days since this album dropped, but it’s already threatening to become one of my favorites of the year with its creativity and drastic mood swings. If you’re interested in something mildly challenging or are just bored of all the music around you, I can’t recommend this project enough.
TL;DR This album is amazing, it’s weird, it’s creative, it’s both abrasive and polished, and I definitely recommend it
Highlights: “Ponyboy,” “Faceshopping,” “Infatuation,” and, “Immaterial,”