SOPHIE's legendary debut, repressed at last
Repress of SOPHIE‘s mercurial Debut on original label, Glasgow’s Huntleys & Palmers. Photo was taken by the label’s Andrew Thompson at the Huntleys & Palmers finale event in 2017.
While Oil of Every Pearls Un-Insides seems like a fully realised idea of SOPHIE’s World, listening to her early tracks like Nothing More To Say and Eeehhh seem like smaller particle collisions in her universe. Her first official release through Huntleys + Palmers, gives us the essence of SOPHIE’s Worldmaking, three tracks that feel like retro-electro futurism, as if you gave an AI an Elektron Monomachine and asked it to make a hyper house track from 1984.
The first song of the EP, Nothing More To Say (Dub) begins with a call to the dancefloor, beginning with an infectious kick that leads us into a synthy melody, SOPHIE said that she likes to, “make music which is fun to dance to – that should be the loudest voice talking,’ in these tracks we hear the voice she’s talking about. In the (vox) version of the track, the song begins with an extended vocal, ‘you left me dry and I’ve got nothing more to say’ backed by a jittery synth, the harsh lyrics are quickly erased by the cheerful melody that just draws you in. The song is pure joy, it’s the last day of school for summer, the final track of the night as the sun comes up.
I was first introduced to these tracks when SOPHIE headlined the BBC Radio 1 stage at Leeds Fest in 2016, playing directly after PC Music alumni Danny L Harle there was a tingle in the air that felt we’d finally be undrawing the curtain in Oz and see who was behind the magic. When SOPHIE appeared, she was backdropped by an LED screen with flashes of words such as ‘Propylene’ and ‘Polyvinyl Chloride’ which just further added to her mystery, and the crowd’s confusion. It’s interesting looking back on these moments with the elusive producer, especially knowing what we know now. SOPHIE’s performance at Leeds was so exciting because up until now her identity was really a mystery, interviews on Radio 1 and Beats Radio, she had used a voice changer, and live performances such as her Boiler Room show in 2014 in which she had an actress on stage pretending to DJ and she stood at the side dressed as a bouncer, ushering loose dancers off stage and occasionally fixing some mixing mistakes. These live moments with SOPHIE feel so special now as they exist through shaky iPhone videos and stories from friends, (a few favourites being when she played in London to an empty crowd and left until it got busy again, and in Berghain when she would play a song and simply walk away to chat to friends.) When SOPHIE arrived on stage, she had her staple orange hair and puffy PVC jacket, and started off with her ever polarising track L.O.V.E, which began with what felt like a never-ending buzzing that, literally, made the floor shake. The rest of her set was a blur, I briefly remembered glimpses of her Charli XCX tracks, early Vince Staples demos, and a loud fan shouting ‘Play Vyzee!’ for the entirety of the set. (She didn’t play Vyzee.)
What felt like an hour of organised chaos, was only calmed by two tracks, Just Like We Never Said Goodbye and Nothing More To Say, throughout the set there was a wide felt confusion of ‘How do we dance to this?’ but when she played the latter track you had no choice but to. Amongst her freestyling on the Monomachine, that felt more like performance art, this track stood out as pure joy, it felt more bouncy than fizzy, a plucky synth melody that made you want to smile and dance with strangers in the crowd. During this moment of harmony amidst the mayhem, you caught a glimpse of what SOPHIE was really trying to do; She was soundtracking the world in which she was creating, there was no look of approval from the crowd because she knew exactly what she was doing.
It’s always fun to look back on these moments, as someone who followed SOPHIE’s career closely, you could see how these ideas manifested and grew with her career. SOPHIE was a pioneer and everything she touched was magic, every show encompassed pure queer joy, and when SOPHIE came out as trans there was a whole new depth to her music. My favourite memory of SOPHIE is of her show in the Art School, SOPHIE and Friends, (the friends being TAAHLIAH, Lyzza, Evita Manji and Sega Bodega.) when she turned the Art School into a literal Sweatbox. The excitement of seeing SOPHIE play alongside friends was enough to make you giddy all night, but the most exciting part of the night was the after party, there were whispers that SOPHIE would show up, that she had a flight to catch to Milan, and that she was at another party and we’d all been bamboozled into a party in the city’s industrial estate. Then around 3am there was a shift in the air, when SOPHIE arrived and the party really began…
– Spit Turner