SOPHIE lights up 2018 with ‘Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-insides’, an exhilarating début album of upfront dance-pop, epic ballads and shocking electronic production that grasps the modern zeitgeist with jaws and both fists
Landing some 6 years since her ironically titled debut Nothing More To Say, over which time the artist has produced records for Madonna, Charli XCX and Vince Staples (among others), Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-insides renders a full frontal experience that’s set to define the scene for years to come.
SOPHIE’s understanding of the links between avant-garde and pop cultures is dramatically in force across the album, matching the hyperreal pop stun of PC Music chop for chop, but also pushing the prism farther in favour of her own, equally hyperreal image. The results are comparable with Autechre and EVOL records as much as Taylor Swift or The Pet Shop Boys, veering from warped pop perfection to brutalist electronics and breathtaking rhythmic energy often in the space of a single track, brilliantly embracing contradiction as a tool of expression in a way that feels bang on the money right now.
Her trifecta of lead singles, It’s Okay to Cry, Ponyboy, and Faceshopping gild the album’s entrance with some of the strongest pop sensations felt in recent years, before matters take a dramatic turn with a plunge into the beatless trance ballad Is It Cold In The Water?, and the subsequent chest-bursting R&B gospel of Infatuation, which both appear to massage the senses in preparation for the album’s shock-out 2nd half.
In Not Okay, she pairs knock-out electronics with the sheerest rave mentasms in delirious 3D, before utterly gobbling your swede in the breathtaking, atonal wormhole of Pretending, and promptly spiralling into the vacuum-packed banger Immaterial, then embracing the Whole New World/Pretend World in a kill-‘em-all 9 minutes of endorphin-rushing dance-pop genius that’s effectively the 2018 anthem we were all waiting for.
The brothers Overmono rave between tribalist and ambient jungle-tekno and stepping IDM on return to Whiities
‘Lil’s From’ works out natty, rolling breakbeat edits in a way recalling Peder Mannerfelt’s broken styles, whereas ‘Quadraluv’ rolls out on a flighty mix of ambient techno and rude jungle swerve, and ‘Yell0W_Tail’ swings out into breezy IDM dimensions.
Tirzah pursues the slowest-burning soul feels on Devotion, the London-based singer-songwriter’s humbly singular début album, produced by Mica Levi and providing us with total life affirming summer listening - most probably the record we've listened to most this year so far, and one that lingers on and on...
Since her first solo 12”s and thru frequent collaborations with Mica Levi - including the Taz And May Vids  for DDS - Tirzah has quietly blossomed into one of the UK’s most precious and peculiar artists working at the fringes of experimental pop, post-grime and R&B, and Devotion is set to bring her love to a wider audience.
Plaintive and low key, Devotion presents Tirzah’s vocal in the most evocative light, framed by backdrops of bleary-eyed and bent vibes and the kind of half-finished, permanently work-in-progress production style that's become a calling card of her music and her tight knit crew including Coby Sey, Mica Levi and Brother May.
Album of the year? Aye, quite possibly.
Ploy keeps it dry and funky, UK style, with the rolling pressure of Ramos
Whereas Roy’s Rolls sustains a perpetual snare roll from start to finish on a smart exercise in tension and deferred gratification.
Call Super unfurls two panoramic remixes of Kuniyuki Takahashi’s ace ‘Newwave Project’
Where Kuniyuki’s original project was a smart effort in bridging his original new wave inspiration with modern tech-house minimalism, Call Super’s remixes land firmly on the latter side, firstly on a low-key, dubbed-out and effortlessly swinging version of ‘Newwave Project 2’, and then with something like a Nu Groove/Italian dream-house styled version of ‘Puzzle’, lushed up with diaphanous pads and romantic atmospheres for the a prime, late night Tokyo sound.
Wen hypnotises with the pendulous, crystalline designs of EPHEM:ERA, a sophomore album study on the mercurial warp and weft of modern UK dance music. Like Actress and Zomby before him, Wen also has a vital vision of what dance music can and should sound like. Taking the most forward elements of techno, jungle, garage and grime, he salvages what’s good and bends their time-tested functions into ear-snagging yet elusive new designs that express a pivotal sense of an eternally out-of-reach future.
Tessellating style and pattern at oblique angles, Wen teases their common binds and frictional differentials in a way that feels fresh yet familiar to anyone who has been participating with UK dance music cultures over the past generation.
In Silhouette he retro-fits sino grime with spiritual jazz in weightless pirouettes, while Time II Think rewires garage with slinky techno. Previous single Blips is a sterling example of where hardcore has become distilled/inverted into weightlessness without losing that lip-biting section of hardcore proper, and the uncentred axes of Grit and Off-Kilter catch him rendering garage-techno prisms with ambient abstraction, modulating the tension between raving urges and a certain sort of UK discipline that’s key to his sound.