NBHAP Rating: 4,1/5
Label: Numbers/ Rough Trade
08. Just Like We Never Said Goodbye
ALBUM OF THE WEEK
One could argue that the golden age of over-glorified record labels is finally over. In a time when pretty much everybody can release music anytime or start an own ‘label’ while all the genres slowly but steady turn into one big pot of popular music – isn’t the concept of a label a bit old-fashioned? Still, London-based PC Music managed to create a certain buzz over the past years; a buzz that now reaches for a broader audience to get the recognition, whether its HANNAH DIAMOND, QT or producer Samuel Long aka SOPHIE. Although it isn’t released on the label of the post-internet art collective his long awaited debut LP Product defines the very essence of the PC Music credo and showcases everything you might love or hate about their work. And yes, there’s a lot to hate about the SOPHIE debut – but even if you choose to follow this path it will be a fascinating form of hate, trust us.
Just like the rest of the British collective the sound of SOPHIE is a weird mixture of heavily over-the-top electronic pop sounds; a mix that isn’t afraid of cheesiness, K-pop and video game influences and a lack of familiar structures. It’s ‘ADHD pop’ that sounds like it’s directly taken from a Japanese video game commercial from the 1990s. Still, the sound couldn’t be further away from being a ‘retro’ electro clash-like record. Product is a perfectly hyperbolic cocktail of pop, avant-garde, hip hop and trash. It’s playing with clichés and the listener’s expectations. Bipp opens the barely 25-minute long album with a high energy trap music overload while the pitched vocals encourage you to ‘suck that smooth’ and promise: ‘I can make you feel better.’ Elle slows down the tempo with an epic kick drum and dreamy sounds that might remind true 90s kids (you know, the ones that actually lived in that decade) of the soundtrack to an old Super Nintendo game. SOPHIE isn’t afraid of those references, even if they only last a few seconds. That might explain the short trash pop break in the barely two minutes long trap overkill Lemonade.
What’s fascinating about the sound of this LP is its clear and consequent production. It’s partly even minimal like in MSMSMSM but therefore quite loud. And besides being heavily influenced by commercialized pop there’s plenty of room for edgy moments in it. The metallic synthesizer sounds in Hard are a perfect example; same goes for the really nerve-wrecking electronic tone that dominates L.O.V.E. This is almost APHEX TWIN level – well, except for the totally unexpected interruption by those dreamy bells. Product is packed with ideas and won’t please you with song structures in a traditional understanding. Vyzee and the closing track Just Like We Never Said Goodbye might be the closest attempt of SOPHIE to create a pop tune; the rest refuses a clear definition. Product is way to short for being labelled as a traditional album, especially since Mr. Long released most of these songs already on their own in the past months. It’s an accelerated release for the streaming generation.
Established dividing lines and limitations vanish in the microcosm of PC Music. Would you call this art or just trash? Especially the fact that the label makes no secret out of the fact that they like to brand each release for commercial purposes is a fascinating aspect. It’s not even sure if an artist like HANNAH DIAMOND is a ‘real’ one. The irony gets lost in the perfectly constructed and designed product these artists provide. That is, of course, a dangerous trend but also a fascinating one. It questions our perception of popular music in the early 21st century. SOPHIE is able to play with our mind in a partly even disturbing way, providing a record that manages to do something that became rare these days – it surprises the listener, sounds fresh and unlike many things that aren’t around these days.
SOPHIE’s debut full-length Product showcases everything you might love or hate about buzzing British label ‘PC Music’ – but it does it in the most fascinating way.