Sophia - The Infinite Circle
A MORE DEPRESSING RECORD IS difficult to imagine. Hüsker Dü's 'Candy Apple Grey'? 'Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space' with a 20-minute 'Broken Heart' reprise? 'The Infinite Circle' would flatten them with a resounding thud.
Sophia mastermind Robin Proper-Sheppard certainly has reasons to be tearful. The career of The God Machine, his first band, was summarily cut short by the death of bassist Jimmy Fernandez in 1994. Since then, he's been struggling to re-spark the faith, disentangle the legacy from the loss and move on.
'The Infinite Circle' marks a progression, if not an alteration, from the sparse, despairing course of his 1996 solo effort, 'Fixed Water'. His dolorous emoting, like Smog feeling suicidal or Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous under heavy sedation, is now couched in the surge and twist of sumptuously melancholic strings.
From the first note, Proper-Sheppard tries to breathe under a lead blanket - gasping through the unremittingly bleak 'Woman' ("Whore... is it easy to forget that you've destroyed me?"), straining against the fearsome weight of 'Bastards' ("I pray I'm not alone when I die"). There are moments, like the relatively up-tempo 'Every Day' and the almost jangly 'Sometimes', when the centrifugal force seems to quicken, but the sentiment remains the same.
Not a cheerful album, then. But one that finds solace in its own inconsolability. 'The Infinite Circle' tries again and again to drag itself out of a hole before sliding back in, asking the same questions and solving nothing - yet amid all its existential angst, beauty prevails. Possibly the most melodic, delicate and devastating cries for help you're ever likely to hear.