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yeule delves into their emotional wounds on softscars


Release date: 22 September 2023
Yeule softscars cover
20 September 2023, 09:00 Written by Alex Nguyen

The draw to yeule’s mystifying music exists in their creation of other worlds to explore identity and the healing process.

Nat Ćmiel had a secluded upbringing, experiencing isolation from their peers due to asthma-related difficulties and growing up with OCD. Like many, they took to the internet as an escape and interacted with the world through forums and social networking sites like Tumblr. This was also the start of their artistic avatar, yeule, whose name comes from a Final Fantasy character. At this time, they were already forming their own environments for more suitable living. These imagined realms were where their music could safely exist, surpassing the need to label their identity with social constructs, with people able to revolve their lives solely around their interests and passions.

The results were extraordinary, beginning with the ambient pop soundscape of Serotonin II and continuing with the jagged textures of Glitch Princess. These albums, which read like a cyborg’s diary, found yeule wrestling with past and present traumas through their virtual way of thinking. They struggled to deal with these feelings, often exploring dissociation, self-loathing, and suicidal ideation. But softscars demonstrates that yeule has taken time to reflect and has begun to heal. If Glitch Princess saw the artist trying to travel to alternative realities, then softscars is their attempt at looking inward – to remember what was instead of coping through detachment. Thus, the music seems more revealing and human than before, as if the digital being had developed flesh and a physical body.

The lyrics on softscars are less nihilistic, while the music incorporates more acoustic instrumentation akin to Glitch Princess’ “Don’t Be So Hard on Your Own Beauty.” This song stood out from the 2022 album’s tracklist as a personal account of feeling worthless due to their physical appearance only for a friend to rescue them from this mindset, putting them on the path toward self-acceptance. Songs on softscars like “ghosts,” “software update,” and the closer “aphex twin flame” all feature live guitars that hint at a cyborg feeling human emotions and longing for connection. With these tracks, yeule appears to let more of Ćmiel into their artistic persona. On “ghosts,” they repeat the line: “If only I could be / Real enough to love.” Similarly, in the single “sulky baby,” yeule confronts and forgives their younger self, saying, “I wanna jump, but I see your eyes.” Despite the sharp edges, stirring whispers, and pitched vocals, they find catharsis.

This sense of release is best exemplified in yeule’s mix of early-00s alternative rock with their futuristic electronic sound. By combining the nostalgia of a genre that they likely grew up with and the inventiveness of one that they took to later in life, the project acts like a journal, detailing a period of growth and maturation. The opener, “x w x,” expels anger and frustration with emo punk screams and heavy rock instrumentation, while the aforementioned “sulky baby” is a dream pop cut with gentle vocals and shoegaze-like guitars that act as a sharp contrast. In fact, softscars is full of variance, containing the indie pop “cyber meat” with its euphoric synth break and the distorted “dazies” that features driving guitars and noise.

The album is a transition for yeule both musically and thematically, taking a step forward from their previous work. But that doesn’t come without a few kinks where the unpredictability of the next track’s soundscape can be distracting, leading to a focus on the instrumentation rather than achieving a balance with the lyrics and overarching narrative. The aforementioned switch from “x w x” to “sulky baby” may be jarring for some, and a more patient project may have spaced the tracks further apart to allow for a smoother adjustment. But these quibbles are minor when compared to the vastness of softscars’ ambition. Its musical journey mirrors yeule’s life progression, pairing alternative rock with electronic glitch just as yeule couples their human self with their cyborg persona. This creates spectacular results, opening up to raw and honest emotion all while maintaining the mystery.

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