In the last decade pop has changed immeasurably. There’s been a move away from centrist BIG pop behemoths making widescreen mainstream anthems incorporating all the shiny signifiers used since at least the dawn of the MTV era, to a more fluid, diverse and altogether stranger and more experimental sound led by a vibrant generation of Gen Z kids who have grown up online and for whom there are neither boundaries nor limits.
Pop takes whatever form they want. Think of the likes of PC Music and Charli XCX who navigate between the super accessible and the super weird with ease. Very much in the the spirit of future pop experimentalism comes producer, musician and performance artist Yeule with the dark-hued fantasy of their second album Glitch Princess.
Yeule was born Nat Cmiel, in Singapore, but is based in London. They grew up deeply immersed in the digital age of culture and creation, Tumblr and other online social platforms. Community and collaboration was essential. An underground community of artists were developing who sought a new way of doing things. They released their debut album Serotonin II in 2019 which introduced the push pull of discordance and ugliness meshed sometimes awkwardly, sometimes beautifully with blissful ambient dreamscapes. It was a sound influenced by alt pop pioneers like Grimes. However Glitch Princess takes things to a whole other level.
The album is an odyssey through a prism of darkness and the power of sound to transcend emotions. It’s a work of piercing tonal shifts, for example the shrieking screams that puncture the soaring epicness of Electric, or the way this most idiosyncratic, future sounding record dissolves into the sound of a stripped back simple acoustic guitar and dreamy vocals on stunning highlight Don’t Be So Hard On Your Own Beauty. It’s both an emotional and sonic journey.
This album sees Yeule collaborating with PC music founder and pioneering UK future pop producer Danny L Harle, who adds his trademark bewitching electronics with a rich pop sensibility to shine an important ray of light on Yeule’s exorcism of the cyber pop soul.
An example of the otherworldliness of the record and the singular space it occupies is Yeule’s description of themselves as a “Cyborg entity”. There’s a constant sense of displacement and not feeling of this world, yet crucially it doesn’t ever feel alienating. Yeule has created their own world but they still offer a way in. There’s often beauty within the darkness.
Glitch Princess certainly isn’t an easy record to listen to, yet neither is it wilfully difficult or unwelcoming. It’s perfectly emblematic of the pop period we’re living in, with a new generation of artists changing the meaning of what it is to make pop music on their own terms.