Sophia - The Infinite Circle

Little history lesson for you here, for those that don't know. A few years back there was a band called The God Machine. They released 2 fantastic albums, depressing and uplifting, emotional. They seemed to be well respected by the media, and it seems, other bands. I know if you ask Jeff from PMM or Aimee from Hero, Ish from Liberty37 they'll talk TGM with you.

Then, just as the second album was being completed, the bassist, Jimmy Fernandez, died of a brain tumour. He was taken to the hospital, apparently complaining of a severe migraine, drifted into a coma and died three days later.

The final album was called One Last Laugh in a Place of Dying. I never got to see them live, but that's by the by. Of course Cobain blowing his brains out was getting more headlines. Then, two years ago, the vocalist from TGM, Robin Proper-Sheppard resurfaced with a band called Sophia and an album called Fixed Water. It was virtually all acoustic, extremely mournful. Even more depressing than TGM albums. Yet strangely uplifting and beautiful. Sometimes solo, sometimes with the Sophia Collective. And that brings us up to date, at least as far as I'm aware.

And now there is a new Sophia album. Little has changed. It's still extremely depressive and mournful, probably not one for the people who believe all music is about partying. But once more it's an incredible album. Sure, Korn, Soulfly, Deftones etc are getting all the plaudits for being emotional releases for people. For being real. For touching people's soul. As is Mr Manson. But, you will not hear a more emotional and real album all year. I guarantee you that.

And I don't know if you're anything like me at all, but when you play an album, it can be great, but sometimes there is one song that just lodges in your brain from the very first play, and you just keep returning to it. Infinite Circle has such a song.

It's called Bastards. Now, I don't know if it was the music that drew me, it's actually one of the more accessible tracks, ultimately featuring all 11 of the Sophia Collective, including the trumpet and french horn, Or it may have been the subject matter. The insecurity of men,"Some men are bastards, and some men are swine. But most are just afraid of being alone all their lives"

And then, the plaintive hook hits you,

"I pray I'm not alone, when I die."

May not be the most cheerful of lines, but it's something I have thought about having seen the effects when people have died alone and with me at their side. But that's a topic for another discussion, and probably one that most people don't want to hear. But suddenly when it's just sung in such an emotional voice, with the violin piano and cello mourning in the background, it grabs you. You may not want it to, but you have no choice. And that is real. Very fucking real. And the song gradually builds. It’s an awe inspiring piece of music. Totally awe inspiring. Simple, but so incredibly effective. Half of the bands that claim to tap into real emotion should be forced to listen to it and learn.

At the end of the day, I'm not sure that it's better than Fixed Water, but tracks like Directionless, If Only and Woman are up there. And of course, the track Bastards. And then, possibly the closest throwback to TGM is delivered with The River Song.

So, if you want to hear real, if you want to hear emotion, then you want to hear Sophia. You don’t need detuned guitars. You don’t need guttural roars. This is the most honest and brutal release I think you'll hear all year. It comes from inside. From the soul and emotion, and a voice that often seems close to breaking. But most people will be so tortured and empathising with all those "real" rock stars that they won't give a flying fuck about this. How can they, after all, "this is only acoustic music". Maybe they'll die alone. Don't make this album suffer that fate. The Manics may take the awards this year for “honesty and emotion”, but this is the real winner.

Just for the record here, and I'm sure there'll be more about it if there’s next YAZ whether you’re interested or not. I bought this album just as this issue was coming to an end. There is good reason why this is on the last "real" page of this issue. As this issue has been coming to an end, I’ve been thinking of ending YAZ. If it happens, then the next issue will likely be the last. It feels, as if I've maybe run my course with it. Just repeating myself and becoming way too opinionated and judgemental. "I have become what I despise" as the lyrics to Within Without explain it. Like I said, you'll read more about it, and probably what I decide, next time. But, this album has made me think that maybe I will carry it on. There is no link, it's just that this is possibly delivering the reason that I need. It’s an important album to me at the moment. An inspirational album.