Known for her delicate compositions, soaked in dream-like surrealism, Icelandic musician Sóley has attracted a huge following since launching her solo career back in 2010. Her 2012 single ‘Pretty Face’ went on to generate an enormous amount of buzz, and quickly became a viral sensation. Now, with three solo LPs under her belt, Sóley is preparing to debut a completely new sound via the release of her new concept album, Mother Melancholia, on October 22nd.
Described by the artist as "Nosferatu meets Thelma and Louise in a vampire church under the watchful eye of David Lynch", Mother Melancholia is the soundtrack to the end of the world as we know it. As a self-confessed news addict, Sóley became obsessed with the idea that the world is ending. Having surrounded herself with real-life stories of global warming and patriarchal politics she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was going to die. This feeling was so all encompassing that it sparked the idea for a new project. Could there be a soundtrack for the last days of humans on earth? How would that sound?
“I read books about possible dystopian worlds and started writing poems about irrational and in love characters who live in gray and cold imaginary loneliness. In each other’s burning arms. Walking in circles with no way out” she explains. “After all, the album reflects our life here and now. Our life and reality is a kind of dystopian world.”
Whilst writing the album, which serves as a tongue-in-cheek eulogy to our planet, Sóley began reading about ecofeminism, a branch of feminism which uses the concept of gender to analyse the relationship between humans and the natural world. Ecofeminism emphasizes that both women and nature must be respected but also separated. Since the beginning of time, the natural world has been synonymous with female identity, phrases like Mother Nature are commonplace. “The patriarchy views women as volatile and hysterical. Earth and women are either our saviours or our destroyers,” explains Sóley. “It’s so easy to abuse the earth, like the patriarchy has abused women since the dawn of time, then ask for forgiveness afterwards and promise they´ll never do it again”.
The new album sees Sóley move away from the indie-pop of her previous releases. She began by experimenting with writing songs on the accordion, allowing her a new sense of freedom in her writing. The process allowed her to broaden her horizons even further and experiment with a whole range of new and exciting sounds. “I bought myself a theremin as I was really excited about the unpitched sound and there is no perfect pitch during the end of days,” she laughs. “I also bought a mellotron, my first moog and a cello and taught myself how to play each of them. All of these new instruments are particularly suitable for the kinds of aesthetic inconveniences which I have learned to embrace.”
Album opener ‘Sunrise Skulls’, one of the most cinematic moments on the album, was inspired by the Me Too and SlutWalk movements and tells the story of a group of women who rise up and fight the patriarchy. ‘Blows Up’, a track that would be at home on any horror soundtrack, is a sarcastic love letter from the Earth to humans. Standout track ‘Desert’ is an incredibly moving song dedicated to the next generation. “It’s about the guilt you feel, as a mother, for having children and leaving them on the frontline. My daughter, for example, will take over this inevitable war” explains Sóley.
In true soundtrack style, the album flows through the end of the world in chronological order, closing with the Earth’s final moments. ‘Sundown’ is a dark piano ballad detailing human kind’s final day on Earth. “And everyday, I dig my own grave, and as I dive in you´ll hold my hand” she sings, over twinkling piano and swirling synths. We then hear the world end on ‘XXX’, a dark and swirling soundscape that swells before fading to silence. On ‘Elegía’ the silence then turns to the sound of the ocean, as we hear the Earth, like a woman finally free from a violent relationship, healing on her own.
Mother Melancholia is the mark of an artist confidently striding into more experimental territory. With a lengthy and successful career behind her, Sóley felt compelled to try something new and express the real her. The music might be shrouded in darkness but it’s a move that fills her with joy and freedom. “I hope that people not only enjoy the new sound, but also that Mother Melancholia might raise some questions in people, particularly women,” she says. “I’m under no illusions that this album will change the world but I hope that people can connect with the idea”.