Music Reviews
PRODUCT

SOPHIE PRODUCT

(self-released) Buy it from Insound Rating - 7/10

The most appealing aspect of PRODUCT doesn’t have anything to do with the music itself. In fact, give SOPHIE's, aka UK producer Samuel Long, compendium of singles a fair amount of listens and your opinion of it will probably not waver too much. Its musical appeal is purely surface-level, serving an appetizing platter of gleaming, rickety sounds that are grossly considered consumer goods. It doesn’t really grow on you; if anything, you’ll most probably set it aside after consuming it for an hour or so, which isn’t any different than any other highly-desirable purchase you made this past week.

There is always a conflicting relationship with art consumption. It’s rare to really give value to something you purchase, though we course through life gratifying ourselves with small, insignificant pleasures. There’s something seductive about desiring something that is out of reach (or price range), as well as a desire to expect something that is close to being within our reach (think about all those times you’ve desperately waited for a package to wait outside your door).

Which makes sense that SOPHIE wants to make his marketing as appealing as possible. SOPHIE’s online shop sells all sorts of lowbrow goods, from neon-lit puffy jackets to plastic “lenticular” sunglasses (most of which are questionably sold out), though if you’re the kind who likes to buy “limited” everything then the premium “silicon product” is still available, an ambiguous sex toy (with a suggested, ahem, arbitrary price of 74.73) that perfectly demonstrates Long’s point: you’ll surely set aside the digital release that comes with it, but at least you can hold on to some erotic curio that can actually give you some long-lasting physical pleasure. All of a sudden, 74 dollars with change does sound like a fairly good deal.

This overt gag on consumerism isn’t in any way novel, though what’s interesting about Long is that he’s stayed true to this idea of lodging art with commerce, seeing as the track Lemonade was even used to soundtrack a Mc Donald’s ad. Which raises the more important question: does Mc Donald’s even sell lemonade?! The album version of Lemonade is a full two minutes, and it feels a minute and 30 seconds too long, meaning that you can cut and splice it into a 30 second jingle and it just works. But give the track a further listen and you’re missing out on the song’s devilishly brilliant intent: that of forgiving yourself for cheating on someone because boys are just as tasty as some freshly-squeezed lemonade juice. Or pasteurized, 100% natural flavor juice that’s sold inside a box; whatever works for you.

As far as artistic statements go, PRODUCT couldn’t be any more commonplace. Which is unfortunate, since the marketing push behind it diminishes what should’ve been Product’s main selling point: the actual music. Sure, some of these tracks have been floating around the Internet since 2013, and they’re all arranged in chronological order to highlight that this is, in fact, a compilation, but having them all together in one place really emphasizes how it doesn’t sound like any other electronic album out there.

At the same time, a lot of PRODUCT is laid out like some clever ruse: the instrumental MSMSMSM emulates the tired trappings of trap music for the first minute or so before it turns its nuanced atmospherics into a disquieting finish. VYZEE is a 3-minute dance banger that is begging for a looped, 10 hour version, or to think ahead of the commercial viability PRODUCT boasts, could easily be turned into a 30-minute cardio video workout. Long’s last reveal, Just Like We Never Said Goodbye, has a pleading, palatable chorus that’s ready-made for chart-topping purposes, though its slightly restrained, even anti-melodic approach, suggests Long’s fixation with clipped, minimal arrangements. 

Despite all the hoopla surrounding SOPHIE's true artistic motives, including all the unnecessary think pieces on gender neutrality, PRODUCT stands on its own ground as a fairly innovative couple of tracks that exhibit how Long (and the entire PC Music roster) are pushing the boundaries of sound production and design. Nevertheless, there’s very little incentive to revisit it from start to finish, as its sparkly, chirped sounds may very well leave you in a hyper-induced daze (I’m surprised SOPHIE’s website doesn’t sell multi-colored helium balloons to sing along to; another missed opportunity). PRODUCT is truly what you make of it - both highly addictive and somewhat unfinished, it leaves a good amount of open space for the listener to construct a set of vivid, imaginary images into something personal, even meaningful. Or you can just toss it after a few days or so, but isn’t that what you do with any kind of media, anyway?