A master of storytelling through music, Sóley recently released her fourth LP, ‘Mother Melancholia’. Having plunged herself deep into news of global warming, Sóley decided to write her latest album as a eulogy for the planet and humankind. She refers to the sound of the album as “chamber doom”, which is a departure from her earlier releases, although the surrealistic and dewy tones typical to her music are still present.
‘Mother Melancholia’ was released October 22nd, though it had been ready to go since 2020. Like many other artists, Sóley decided to postpone the release date to the (somewhat) post-pandemic time. Since she looks at her art as documentation of a certain era, she wasn’t tempted to make changes to the album while it was waiting for its time to be published. However, Sóley admits being nervous before listening to the album after a year of sitting on it. “I was anxious that I would have grown apart from it, but luckily I hadn’t. I’m still really proud of it, and I guess that’s a good sign,” she reveals.
Translating science and ideologies into art
After surrounding herself with hopeless scientific reports and news about the catastrophic state of the earth, Sóley had an urge to transform them into music. She wanted to compose an album that could serve as a soundtrack for the end of the world.
“In my mind, the end won’t be like a zombie movie. It will be more colorful and quite artistic in its own way,” Sóley explains. She loves how art can cooperate with science by translating research into different art forms, offering a new perspective on the issues. Art helps us understand what science is showing us. “It preserves different eras and helps people to understand what was and is happening in the world,” Sóley summarizes.
‘Mother Melancholia’ was also influenced by eco-feminism, a branch of feminism examining the effect of gender categories and demonstrating the ways in which they exploit unjust dominance over women and nature. For example, earth is referred to as Mother Nature, which imprints an image of it being feminine. As humans continue to neglect nature, Sóley started to wonder if gendering the earth has something to do with it. “What if it’s easier for us to abuse the earth because we refer to it as feminine?” she ponders.
When Sóley had decided the concept for the album, it was easy for her to compose it. “It’s like writing a book: You need to know what you’re going to write about,” she describes. She adds that visualizing the work is also a big part of the process: “I tend to see my music—and especially this album—as a movie. It just doesn’t have the picture.” She reveals that films in general act as a source of inspiration for her work—in this case Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! “It was so chaotic and yet such a beautiful piece of art,” she says admiringly.
Experimenting with new instruments
Sound-wise, Sóley wanted the music to be unpitched. After all, the album is about the end of the world—it should not sound perfect. As a classically trained pianist, Sóley was afraid she would not be able to let loose with composing the desired music with said instrument, so she bought herself a cello, theremin and mellotron and began experimenting with them. “I know the piano too well, and it can be hard to see the all the possibilities from outside the box when I’m making music with it. Playing new instruments I was not familiar with allowed me to be free from the complex classical background and I was able to create simpler melodies, which was the goal,” she explains.
Sóley self-released ‘Mother Melancholia’, which gave her the artistic freedom to create whatever she wanted. It is most definitely not your typical pop album with songs lasting less than three minutes.
“I did the opposite,” she laughs, as most of the tracks are much longer than four minutes. “I know it’s probably not the greatest move when it comes to Spotify streams, but I don’t care. I did what I really wanted to do.”
Her lack of concern with what anyone else thinks of the music definitely paid off. Sóley says she has been overwhelmed by her fans’ enthusiastic feedback. “People are really sinking into the details of the album,” Sóley smiles. ‘Mother Melancholia’s story seems to resonate with listeners.
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