OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES (a phonetic reworking of “I love every person’s insides”) marks a point of reintroduction, rather than return, for Scottish record producer SOPHIE. The last solo project from the artist was 2015’s Product, a stunning hyperpop EP littered with stellar tracks such as ‘Lemonade’, ‘MSMSMSM’ and ‘Hard’. It was a concoction of jarringly staccato synths and pitched-up vocals that made a monumental impact on electronic music industry giants, such as Diplo. But SOPHIE’s debut album marks a massive change since that point, both in sound and lyrical intention.
Since Product, Sophie has remained elusive but ever-influential, with production and writing credits on tracks by Charli XCX, Vince Staples, Liz, Le1f and Quay Dash, to name a few. With the announcement of a new solo project late last year, the artist stepped further into the media spotlight to openly discuss her identity as a trans* artist – a dialogue which is furthered through the lyrical content on this LP. Across nine tracks, SOPHIE harnesses vocals provided by Montréal artist Cecile Believe to explore transcendence from the rigidity of human identity. OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES observes how tightly we contain ourselves within the identities constructed for us as we grew up. No clearer is this theme than on the track ‘Immaterial’, on which Believe muses “Without my legs or my hair, Without my genes or my blood, With no name and with no type of story, Where do I live? Tell me, where do I exist?”
In the lead up to the album’s release, singles ‘It’s Okay to Cry’, ‘Ponyboy’ and ‘Faceshopping’ promised that SOPHIE wasn’t backing down from the experimentation that had defined her initial impact. Instead, she has ramped it up several notches. ‘Faceshopping’ dangles somewhere between song and unfiltered mechanic noise. It’s a track that requires a few listens to process the initial shock of grating, clunking synths and demonic distorted vocals.
OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES teeters between the overly intensified pop that fans have come to expect of SOPHIE, and a much more symphonic sound. With its undulating, morphing and layered synths, the fourth track, ‘Is It Cold in the Water?’, feels like SOPHIE’s take on an orchestral piece.
The album opens with a power ballad (with vocals by SOPHIE herself), transcends into a stunning atmosphere of synth exploration through the central tracks, and ends with the explosive chorus of the final track ‘Whole New World / Pretend World’. It’s a complete, concise and contained project. 39 minutes all up, there’s very little excess. And this is surprising, given the thousands of unreleased tracks that SOPHIE has teased over the past few years. The artist has hit her stride not only as a producer but as an editor. While it certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES will prove in years to come to be a landmark in the evolution of electronic music.