STEEPED in music and musicality for most of her life, Viennese chanteuse Sofie Fatourechi has been quietly working away in the industry in various guises for a long while; but now, after a paradigm shift in her life, it’s time for a little limelight for herself with her first album of songs, Cult Survivor, on the none-more-cool LA label Stones Throw.
Sofie started out in the classical sphere, first picking up the violin at the tender age of four; she left the Vienna Conservatoire early and travelled, living variously in LA, New York and London. She worked at Stones Throw in an A&R role, bringing in new signings; she made a name for herself as a DJ and four years ago curated the compilation Sofie’s SOS Tape for the label, which included a collaborative track, “Abeja”, with Mndsgn.
Which is why on the back of such a pedigree, Cult Survivor may seem something of a leftfield swerve. It’s pop, pop made with intelligence and understanding. According to Sofie, it’s a collection of “songs inspired by chanson, heartbreak and life’s overwhelming decisions”.
Opener “Hollywood Walk Of Fame” sets the tone. Built around a staccato piano and a wiry, almost psych, guitar riff, she sings (autobographically) of a “girl she used to know”. It’s knowing, elegant and very European. Follower “99 Glimpses” borrows the stately piano progression of an Emitt Rhodes or a Father John Misty to pace forward, with Sofie’s cool intonation over the top. On “Asleep”, she again seems to yearn: “See you in my dreams, see you in my rearview mirror” she sings, over a synthy backing that’s very much the pristine pop of ‘82/’83, rather than the bombastic excess of later in the decade.
It seems the subconscious, the dream state, played a key role in her creative process: “ “I just ended up sitting down whenever I could, and the songs were just there. I’d hear them in my head or in dreams, and then write them down.”
“Try to Reach Me” descends on the piano, chord by chord, in the way The Kinks made so cool, with a shimmering little guitar arpeggio and a leftfield organ melody. “Try to reach me lately, I’m always around / Doesn’t matter if you think I don’t wanna be found”. It has a real experimental indie cool, gliding and languid: an almost Cherry Red or El thang, if you will – one of those mysterious creatives who would unleash a gorgeous little record with little else to go on but the vinyl. It could find a home during the dream sequence of an Italian film, circa 1972.
Guest” has real early 80s’ synth glide, slow and introspective. You’d be happy to dig this from a crate somewhere as a forgotten nugget.
“Baby” has pop strut and swagger, underlaid by loss: “Baby, ever since I left, I ain’t feelin too hot / So baby, pin me up, give me another shot / At being your love. I’ll make it worth your while.” It even ventures to a little spoken word cool and a knowing, vamping electric piano break of the sort you may have last heard on Felt’s Train Above The City.
So why is there this pervading sense of reaching for an other, be it a lover lost or a past self? There was loss, leading to a return to her childhood home of Vienna. There, she was “suddenly so secluded, no longer surrounded by the musical world I was so embedded in, that it forged the way for my creativity. I’m not sure this would have happened had I stayed in LA; I don’t know if I’d have had the courage.”
Cult Survivor really does have chanson written through it. It may draw, in turn, from 60s’ arrangements, 70s’ songcraft and 80s’ textures, but it has this real European tradition in its bones; think Jane Birkin, think Francoise Hardy, think Carla Bruni. It’s so cool, it’s erudite, and it will unfold graciously in your life rather than arrive at the door unannounced at midnight, clutching Pernod.
Sofie is more likely to be found with a battered, grey-spined Penguin classic and a coffee than she ever will be painting her videos in the most warping cerise, or indeed, wearing meat.
Cult Survivor won’t grab you by the throat; but let it unfold and you’ll find a very good friend.
Cult Survivor will be released by Stones Throw on LP and digital formats this Friday, June 26th. To order, visit https://www.stonesthrow.com/store/cult-survivor/