BEING SOPHIE seems exhausting. As one of the more prolific characters associated with the helium-filled dance pop of England’s PC Music label, Sophie has spent the past two years in a frenzied state of multitasking. His penchant for dropping buoyant, elastic bangers like change on the sidewalk feels more natural than calculated. Meanwhile, his collaborations with divisive artists like A. G. Cook and Kyary Pamyu-Pamyu have broadened his scope of work to include some of the strangest pop ever to grace the dance floor. He’s a versatile, ahead-of-his-time talent whose comfort zone seems nonexistent, and if that’s just a little too broad-based, check out “Bipp” and “Elle” and consider that both tracks dropped more than two years ago.
Perhaps the biggest surprise, then, is how committed Sophie seems to be to his anonymity as a producer.
Being an anonymous DJ is far from original. Plenty of producers have tried it, and almost all of them have, at some point, admitted the futility of the attempt and revealed their identities. It happened with Burial, it happened with SBTRKT, and it happened with Slow Magic. The point is, there's a precedent in place that verifies the necessity (or maybe the luxury) of identity.
Surprisingly, Sophie’s motive for staying off the grid is what makes his commitment to it so comprehensible. Last year, en route to a festival featuring what would later turn out to be a destructive 11:30 p.m. Sophie set, my friends were shocked to discover that only like five people could pick this guy out of a lineup. And that's the thing: Sophie's veil was never the gimmick. It has never been the gimmick. His music is original enough to cast a shadow on almost everything else, including his own identity.
For a guy rife with tricks, that's a really, really good thing. His technique and behind-the-board prowess has morphed into a unique, inimitable subset of dance music that seems to exist on an altogether more uplifting plane of existence. “Vyzee” (probably pronounced like “fizzy”) sounds like a bottle of Coca-Cola dropping 64 bars on a Homework-era Daft Punk track.
Considering that five of the eight songs on Product were pre-released over the past two years, the record operates much more like a manifesto than it does a science experiment. More than half the tracks come as no surprise, while the other three (“Just Like We Never Said Goodbye”, in particular) are totally arresting and wonderful. “MSMSMSM” is a head-scratching synth journey par excellence, showcasing his near-absurd love for emulating things falling down a laundry chute.
Then there’s the name of the album, Product, which refers to a gift-with-purchase that is probably a sex toy. I’m sure this has something to do with Sophie’s stance on consumerism, or how purchasing music is the online equivalent to getting banged or something, but if it isn’t a sex toy, it could certainly be used as one. Apropos of nothing.
The bottom line is this: Product is a great album, even though it isn't exactly surprisingly great. Many of Sophie’s best tracks, come to find out, are the ones we’ve heard since 2013. But maybe that’s his plan. Maybe his greatest trick of all is convincing the world that he might have already run out of them. B