yeule Is Beginning to Heal on 'softscars'

BY Ian GormelyPublished Sep 20, 2023

You could be forgiven if you'd assumed that electronic musician yeule was just the latest upgrade in the music industry's quest to build a virtual pop star. After all, that was the goal of Nat Ćmiel, the very human person behind the decade old pseudonym, who yearned to be a self-aware AI. 

But a funny thing happened on their way to the singularity. Singapore-born, London-based, Ćmiel reconnected with their physical self and started processing their gender dysphoria and eating disorder. As they recently told Pitchfork, "I want to feel like I'm real." 

That desire shines through softscars, yeule's third album, in both subject and form. From the thrilling opener "x w x" through the slow build of closer "aphex twin flame" Ćmiel drops the facade and lets listeners into the world they live in, rather than the one they've constructed. 

At times it can be difficult to parse exactly what they're singing about. Songs like "softscars" and "sulky baby" can be read as the ups and downs of a relationship, though whether that's with a person, a digital avatar or themselves is left open to interpretation. In that way, Ćmiel plays things both ways, offering up more of themselves for public consumption than ever before, yet still leaving the door open to their fans grafting their experiences onto Ćmiel's. 

The music — a mix of digital sound with electric and acoustic guitars and live (or at least live sounding) drums — complements their newfound humanist approach to songwriting. 2022's Glitch Princess shattered pop music into a million little pieces. Here Ćmiel has glued things back together, but the cracks are still visible in the way they pair genre tropes. 

Unlike artists like 100 Gecs who thrive on the cacophony that comes from slamming disparate sounds together, Ćmiel seems more interested in making those incongruent pairs fit together; big pop-punk guitars colliding into jagged industrial rhythms, slow acoustic guitars swimming in ambient digital noise. "x w x," is the record's most Gecs-ian moment. But that soon fades into a more lush and dreamy sound that could be described as pop in certain circles. 

Ultimately softscars is a record about self-acceptance and the rocky road that's forever under construction that leads there. It's a process that's taken its toll on yeule, but, as the name suggests, the wounds are starting to heal. 
(Ninja Tune)

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