Sonae – I Started Wearing Black
by James Catchpole
I Started Wearing Black is an appropriate response to heartbreak, rebellion, mourning, or apathetic indifference; the colour of dead roses, and the absence of light’s peace-making glimmer. Sonae’s music chokes on a series of ill-lit, leaden beats, propelling it into the unknown as its surrounding electronic framework groans and then splinters in a fit of rage. While ISIS have used black on a flag representing oppression and hatred, the music itself isn’t oppressed, although it does seem to highlight a plethora of complicated issues within our culture and society. As a female artist, this is especially relevant. I Started Wearing Black is a striking album.
Something cataclysmic has occurred deep within the music’s heart, a devastating ripping at vital tissue and vulnerable muscle. Sonae divulges her experiences via the music, using it as a means of tearing the poison out, of exorcising these thoughts. It could be raging against the machine, against the undercutting and discrimination of women in an unfair world where, fortunately, female empowerment is on the rise, and her music dimly reflects a general upsetting of things. Her time is now, and her music rises up with her. Despite its tight rhythms and dancefloor-esque beats, the music is intelligent enough to whisper of revolution, and brave enough to confront its distressing situations, of love lost and romantic disintegration.
These quivering notes hang in the air with their plague-like perfume, the shadowed colour returning once again in the guise of the Black Death. Better daub those doors, because her music doesn’t hand out second chances. The seductive, darker threads of ‘Dream Sequence’ are like stolen kisses in the night, a forbidden hour and a confusing scent, something that feels right but is ultimately wrong. The battering ram of ‘Soul Eater’ quickly erases the tranquillity. After a violent, dizzying opening, things settle down into a gentle, restful intimacy. Two lovers are in tune with each other, and two heartbeats are in time. As a beloved’s heartbeat becomes the main rhythm, resting against the other, the track feels like an affair in motion, the heart twisting, negotiating and attempting to reason an act of sin with its troubled conscience. The title track’s thin beat skitters through the dark tunnels of a hurting heart, and the undercurrents of dissatisfaction gnaw at its ribcage, but you can still raise your hands in the air to the beat.
Engaged in a long battle, these beats are flammable and capable of igniting at any second. This unpredictability runs throughout the record, and it acts like a lit firework – you never know when it’s going to go off – while also keeping the music on its toes. There’s a lot of anger simmering in the stew of static, tingling at the music’s underside like a submerged volcano, a musician giving an unhinged performance and then performing a sudden mic-drop halfway through a song. It both cares too much and doesn’t care at all. Sonae’s music stands on its own, outstripping and outperforming others. I Started Wearing Blackshines like the radiance of an eclipse during the day, painting others in a black so palpable as to make them appear invisible.