Oil Of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides

Gnashing textures grapple with surreal top 40 sparkle on pop surgeon's latest

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out how Scottish musician SOPHIE really feels about pop music. Do her hectic compositions — at times overwhelming, maximalist, overheated; at others pitilessly deconstructed, unspooling, spare to the point of collapse — betray a figure sneering at pop, its artifice, its diachronic attachment to commerce, its confident claim on human truths? Or one celebrating it, revelling in its accessibility, its position as a site of intercultural exchange, its dependable methods of provoking emotional responses? If she does have a goal in mind, it’s a canonical one — either to push the language of pop beyond its current limits or dismantle it wholesale.

Oil Of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides, the follow-up to 2015’s PRODUCT, is SOPHIE’s latest stride towards whatever frenetic musical techno-future it is that she envisions, and the latest demonstration of her language: a vernacular of pounding kicks, human voices processed into oblivion, uncomfortable squishing noises, revving engines and clattering metal. This language irrefutably excels in creating jarring juxtapositions; equally irrefutable is the relish Sophie takes in setting them up.

The opener ‘It’s Okay To Cry’ is, as the name might suggest, an exhibition of sickly sweet mock-theatrics and the first SOPHIE track to feature her own vocals. We feel an exultant chorus approaching, but the song is abruptly t-boned by ‘Ponyboy’, a clanging tumult of insistent gabber and one of those songs about sex that seems to take sniggering pride in its emphatic unsexiness. Succeeding it is the triumphant ‘Faceshopping’, which sounds vaguely like a braying mule trapped inside a tumble dryer. It’s hard-hitting enough for sweaty voguing while remaining meticulously Ableton-ish enough to satisfy headphone-ensconced, checklist-wielding gear people. It’s a high point, and one of the most exciting songs of SOPHIE’s career.

As is often the case with PC Music-affiliated works, this is an album which displays, and not infrequently, extraordinary flashes of inspired production work, but can descend into tedium with as much suddenness. ‘Is It Cold In The Water’ is a song-length riser, and the closing track is almost inexcusably monotonous — it’s a single drum phrase, rich with the kind of EDM belches <a href="" target=“out">which so distressed Lee Arizuno, repeated for nearly ten minutes, replete with distended groans, while SOPHIE cycles indefatigably through various filters. It’s relentless, almost maliciously so, and when the whole affair does eventually draw to a close with the hum of an air conditioner and the sound of the flying Jony Ive heroine thing from Wall-E, you will probably give an audible sigh of relief. And then spin the whole album again.

The Quietus Digest

Sign up for our free Friday email newsletter.

Support The Quietus

Our journalism is funded by our readers. Become a subscriber today to help champion our writing, plus enjoy bonus essays, podcasts, playlists and music downloads.

Support & Subscribe Today