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Product (Numbers)

released two singles over the last year, and this album collects
those cuts in sequence along with four new ones. “Bipp” was my
first exposure to Sophie’s weird style of dropped out dance music,
with an infectious pitch-shifted vocal hook and a punchy synth stab
carrying it; its bass and snare are understated in comparison. But
when Sophie does throw down beats, it’s pretty sharp and effective;
witness the booming subs of “Elle” or the punchy club throb of
“Vyzee.” One of my very favorites of the bunch is “Hard,”
whose clattering, manic drum tracks recall the more aggressive
moments of Autechre or Richard Devine, but with a goofy grimy vocal
overhead and buzzy sawtooth synths giving it a downtempo lurch.
“L.O.V.E.” oscillates wildly between dirgy buzz and bright mania,
with a sputtering, glitchy loop of noise to anchor its repetitive,
stuttering “L-O-V-E” vocal. Its high pitched whine, a squealing
synth that only occasionally lets up contrasts its low-end blast
well, easily one of the weirder cuts on the collection he’s released
over the last year. Its sort of relieving refrain is a ridiculously
bright, spry jingle of sorts, similar to that of “Hard,” offering
a respite from the noisy drone of the rest of the cut. She obviously
is pushing the limits of what’s tolerable, though, and that
high-pitched squeee that dominates the track feels confrontational,
like he’s finally fuly reveling in the piss-take of club culture that
he’s been suggesting already. But then she closes with “Just Like We
Never Said Goodbye,” something between a happy hardcore anthem and
eurodance, but without a rhythm track. Instead its saccharine vocal
is only accompanied by portamento stadium synth stabs and a wash of
sparkling pads. It’s sort of the perfect distillation of disposable
pop music, with a pitch perfect vocal melody that has been
pitch-shifted to half-oblivion. Without much production around it,
its “nude” vocal (I say that ironically because the vocal is
pitch-shifted and retuned into near oblivion) could have just as
easily belonged to a Katy Perry track but with only the minimum of
additional production; for all of Sophie’s obfuscation, distortion, and exaggeration of
pop sounds and flourishes, ultimately in the end she is happy to just
throw down a melody worthy of Max Martin. It’s sort of the ultimate
bubblegum reward for the alternately beguiling, annoying, abrasive,
or infectious sounds that populate the preceding cuts. Elsewhere she
flirts with dance music tropes like trap (“MSMSMSM,” “Elle”)
or EDM (“Vyzee”), sometimes feeling like he’s almost making jabs
at the genres by skimming off the surface for her own ironic
purposes; whether his intent or not, it still works well, with a
weird melange of pop and underground sounds isolated and layered only
a few at a time. It brings to my mind some of the cleverness and satire of the KLF, perhaps
not unlike what that project would have been in 2015. Goofy, strange,
infectious and pulpy, Product is well worth the 26-minute listen for
its rapid-fire sprawl of stripped down riffs on dance music culture.

As a
corollary, I’ll admit that after writing about this album and looking for its artwork online, I stumbled onto what the online peanut gallery has to say about the music of Product.
I’m floored by the amount of sheer vitriol hurled at it on the
likes of Resident Advisor, as one example — I suppose
self-righteous electronic music snobbery is nothing new, but I fail
to see what is so offensive or contemptuous about Sophie’s music…?
And I surely don’t understand why people seem to write this off as
mere “pop music” because it feels fairly abrasive and un-pop to me
most of the time. These are clearly people who haven’t been subjected
to a lot of actual American pop radio lately…! Instead to me it feels like it skims off the surface of EDM, K-pop, J-pop, and eurodance to make something more conceptual and off-kilter.

Sophie is also selling a silicone product, with which customers get a full download of the album. Is this her way of telling the haters to go fuck themselves?

Buy it: Sophie | Boomkat | Bleep | iTunes | Amazon