[sic] Magazine

Sophia – Holding On / Letting Go

Sophia – Holding On / Letting Go

Sophia mainstay Robin Proper-Sheppard is an artist I hold in the highest regard. He tells things how he sees them, pandering to no one and this authenticity shines through his output. Of course, integrity isn’t enough in itself. The music has to be interesting as well. His always has been though, firstly as frontman for alt-rock legends The God Machine and latterly with his current vehicle. In fact, scratch ‘interesting’. This guy frequently dazzles. 2006’s Technology Won’t Save Us is probably my desert island pick yet each Sophia release brings added value. They also provide a comforting familiarity. Proper-Sheppard is the author of his own, distinct musical landscape in much the same way as Ben Gibbard, Greg Dulli or Matt Berninger. We know long before they open their mouths that we’re in their hands, in their world. Sophia is the same. Holding On / Letting Go presents another opportunity to immerse oneself in the Proper-Sheppard universe.

With cover art taking inspiration from Gertrud Grunow’s Twelve Tone Circle of Colour Holding On / Letting Go is a whistle stop tour of the Proper-Sheppard métier that takes in all points Sophia. Opening track ‘Strange Attractor’ emerges from a slow build up (and startling guitar break) to settle into a cooed rumination on rocks eternal ‘boy meets girl’ topic. The latest album feels a little more fleshed out than its predecessor, the enigmatic As We Make Our Way (Unknown Harbours) from 2016. This may be down to a larger core band. Jeff Townsin (Drums) and Sander Verstraete (Bass) both return here but there are additional synths and guitars to augment the mix now. I think these add a lot. ‘Alive’, ‘Undone. Again’ and ‘We See You (Taking Aim)’ emerged earlier this year as promotional singles. I rate these but I think I prefer the meat in this particular sandwich. The run of tracks from ‘Wait’ through to ‘Road Song’ is a sequence of the highest quality. No filler here and certainly no missteps. ‘Wait’ is a haunted grower of a tune while ‘Gathering The Pieces’ shakes off its gloomy ‘House Of The Rising Sun’ foundations to embrace hope. ‘Avalon’ twangs its way effortlessly into your heart but ‘Road Song’ is something of a standout for me, an instant Sophia classic that I cannot imagine being without.

It feels as though Sophia are right back on tracks with Holding On / Letting Go. The latest album is polished and complete enough to impress newcomers while containing all the Sophia ticks and tropes that existing fans will lap up. I did and I will see them again next year at Brussels Botanique. Can’t wait to hear the new stuff live.


The God Machine – feature article

Sophia – live, Liége Reflektor

Sophia – live, Brussels Botanique