A SEARING VOYAGE BEYOND THE UNKNOWN.
Those that read music’s paradigm shifts as culture’s doomsday clock might find themselves offended by hyperpop’s name. “Hyper” inferring a childish rampage ending in tears, an attention deficit, a cocaine toothache, warp speed and the sharpened pin, augmenting “Pop”, as in the easily accessible, the populist, the popular but not the cool, in fact the derivative, the capital, the bubble ready to burst. Pop’s course is downright unsteering, and its crop yield means that it is programmed by nobody you could imagine, not even those cruel, faceless 0.0001% arbiters still paranoid about the other decimals. Pop runs itself on a mass default mode network made of its own antibodies. Anything dangerous or off-key that rises to the scum of its soup should be considered a ploy, or an alarm bell, because everything that the vanguards foresaw in their mirror has turned true. And yet the paradox remains crystal: SOPHIE steered pop, and she still sounds dangerous.
We might be even more stumped at where the genre’s register of eurodance and emoscreamo aesthetic on the mainstream collider has left listeners’ anticipation of societal collapse, somewhere between a disdain for the drowns of modernity and a celebration of its most noxious qualities. Somewhere between a cyber bath and the burning of the world. Escaping residual, breathless and in bad taste from its lysergic insurgency is some bimbo Barrabas praying for plastic. The homogenization of total culture is quite the party and because discordances come faster and harder, they feel like fireworks. Hyperpop was always on the horizon - it’s pink, and it’s made of twilight. It’s your middle-school disco, sugar-crushed and blush late. At its forefront is a reappreciation of mid-noughties cringe that you may have hastily cast off in the skinshed of joy to labour coolness. This same rosy maximialism can be found in Gecs’ Linkin Park tribute, the recent readmission of Skrillex into the popular consciousness, and Jenny Alien’s earnest rendition of Nickelback’s 'Rockstar' that dreams for hedonism without hangovers. If the lyrics of SOPHIE’s statement piece, ‘IMMATERIAL’, aim to hold the lonely girl she once knew in impossible rhapsodies through the lens of the pop music she would instantly recognise, then it is clear that in this land the inner child is the most divine. In the sticky floor saturnalia of the school disco, twirling too is the night. The stirred star shellac of fission. In this glitz it still rumbles with oceanic possibility.
Though nowadays we cynically recognise in each purchase the signs of the systems in which we find ourselves ensnared, as our inner child – still moonwalking a fresh planet – these symbols were not so tired. With wide eyes, neoliberalism doesn’t even need to be reappropriated, it can be utilised as plasma to barrel beyond it. The body and the ascription of gendered space are condensed also into this propane, like rushing two opposing forces to decompress a gnarled differentiator and becoming the beating raven crystal of breakage. Acknowledging that collapse occurs when two forces cause one or the other to break into smaller versions of itself, in on itself, and so leaving a vacuum, SOPHIE pioneered the formative geists of a genre built inexorably on the unsteadiness of contradiction, on filling up those gaps so as to still make a dance out of the demise. The contradictions of her music don’t arise only from being a trans person, only from the transhumanist project, but from a ravenous, capacious manifesto to initiate collapse by any name to joyfully emancipate the categorical, and to survive in the very calm and clear event horizon of it all, raving on and on.
“My face is the front of shop
My face is the real shop front
My shop is the face I front
I’m real when I shop my face.”
In 'Faceshopping’s' symbiosis of consumerism and transhumanism, plastic becomes the simultaneous item of permanence and of ruin, worn like a denigrated amulet (like a brand or a slur). Plastic polymers the ancient anxieties of extinction which insinuates the new, the blended, the mixed, the sampled, the palimpsest, the rhyming, the broken beats of mashups, corrosions, restructures, revamps and remixes. All that exploits the binary to become the else. Like hyper pulverises pop, the possessed can be welded onto the possessor and the "real" phase into the made halcyon. In gaming, the blossoming of personality and identifiable narratives of self often directly correlate to a system of objects: earn items, master them, become suprahuman. Charms won, guns that communicate, emeralds that emboss, masks that transform. Often a player will go to lengths, in real life, to preserve a digital item, and the fruits of Baudrillard’s nightmares have spawned entire real-world economies, gambling and debts, from only the gossamer suggestion of tactility atop rolling code. In suit, like impoverished countries are sure to still have Facebook, it will only take a few decades before everyone can be strapped to a headset and some heat receptors and a drip for eternity. You will have the choice, as you do now, whether or whether not to assimilate, but choosing not to will mean abandoning family, friends, and careers to the nebula of “progress”. So, what if we adopted SOPHIE’s mantra and joined them? What possibilities might lie in the next world? From the wasteland Majora’s mask raises glittering from the chest. One only needs to wear it (update it, calibrate it) to become all selves. And what if we tried to break it? In episode 7 of the ever-unguided Euphoria, Jules talks about the acquisition of feminine objects like items in her quest to “levelling up”, suggesting that the ultimate frontier, the complete “obliteration” of femininity, and patriarchal figures demonic or desired, is just the final boss on her escalator to legend. The undefined. SOPHIE glitch-pitches her voice to show how an identity can be acquired, built, and enchanted. The glitch becomes a tool to transmogrify the normative; the hallmarks of the once taboo can be more readily utilised and left like singed and no-clipped gates in the wake of a rebellion tattooed “uncontainable”.
Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides is these layered contradictions, engaged in the gouging of impossible innards and then gorging on their still sweating improbability. The lilac skies of its world position Sophie on the rocks somewhere between Ariel and the more godlike abdication of the biological curve, but as much as corporeality is easily abused and contained, so too can mythic ideals be condemned to archetype. The plastic gown she wears on the cover art might suggest a somewhat pollutive texture to the world in which she heralds, and yet the waters seem as still as Mars. It is worth searching within for new ontologies. Might we call everything here the same as we did back on earth? Is water still cold? Myth is just a small waste product in the process of disembodiment whose huge, glittering, blasphemic opportunities should never be ignored.
For a future envisioned by the straight and the white, the cosmic and astrological have become standins for the frontiers that are normatively incomprehensible. But online, in clubs, and in worlds that remain preciously undisclosed, these parameters are described less haphazardly and, often, the music that SOPHIE and her contemporaries make is the gerund architecting of these utopic rotundas where the alien can become un-alienable. Whilst the solidifying of presence in the irl sphere is too abject, and the notion of home is too capricious or just plain unaffordable, the real estate of the internet, at least in origin, is so vast, and unregulated, and malleable. Hyperpop remains the only genre officiated by a Spotify playlist title, a history appropriately kneedeep in the bastard wrestle between late capitalism and the exploration of cyberspace. Of course, the splintering of these digital “rooms” that billions of people roost in mean that you can go your whole online life without ever experiencing this space, so we should be grateful to those bards, like SOPHIE, who sound their swinging doors. During ‘It’s Okay to Cry's' assurance that “your inside is your best side”, its sonic arpeggiation and rocket blast-off are the celebratory sutures of abrasion, working behind the scenes to introduce a psychic, transformative surgery in realtime. Only music has that power to operate at the transmolecular and the vibrational. The logic of noise and analog memoria is skirmished in the digital plane, propelling SOPHIE's desire to forge new sounds out of giant alloys, sunblanched and serrated against whetmoon, like a “piano that’s mountain-sized.”
Thrillingly, on the precipice, everything is doubled. The piano strings are haptic: giant, but felt. Your body can be phase-shifted just as your soul can become a new garment; the effervescent fount spritzed onto the palm. Infatuation treatises love as understanding, the pre-requisite learning before regeneration. The truth is that most people get off scot-free. Most people get to make it through life without ever having to consider their own whereabouts, without ever attempting to quantify their single synaptic rush in the ever-wavering winds. And although ignorance is a numb bliss, a life unexamined will only leave a watermark login in the quantum code. It might just be worth the vile cold to get your hands into the bowl and touch the meat.
Through love, there is not only the opportunity to begin the hard process of knowing again by discovering another, but also of knowing yourself anew in the other and then once more, finally, together, joining forces to dive to deeper matrices of possible belief and rulemaking. Only in relation, in two forces acting upon another, in collapse, can a new world be concocted. One that is pansexual, genderless, limitless and uncounted. Childbirth is just one operation of this madcap science, but the fruits in and of themselves are yielded within the labours of loving. If that is true, then the flesh can also become the womb. And alone? Perhaps only with the strange love bestowed by an alien with a saturn harp can we understand how we are multiple. Faced with so many mirrors, digital or otherwise, could be a glass stargate to a prismatic freedom, in which the surveyed is finally upturned into a kaleidoscope, colours scream overhead like northern lights, everything becomes synonymous with nothing and we dance the dance of certainty on the vistas of unknowing, un-inside, where nothing is named and everything is heard.
“I wanna know.
Who are you deep down?”