The Soft Pink Truth: Was It Ever Real? Album review
Comparing Matmos with Coil seems crude. They’re the two most famous gay male couples making smart, sensual, experimental electronic music together, and for the most part, that’s where the similarities end. But when you’ve made a record as chillingly sexual as Drew Daniel’s new Soft Pink Truth EP Was it ever real?, and you put a cover of “The Anal Staircase” by Coil on it and you’ve been with a guy for 29 years: That’s when you start to wonder how much Daniel likes to play John Balance to MC Schmidt’s Sleazy.
Was it ever real? gives the impression of a lean, fulfilling eroticism. Just the title of “Is It Going to Get Any Deeper Than This?”, not to mention the seductive moans and sighs that flutter through the mix like clouds of smoke, makes the record’s preoccupation clear from the opening moments. Coil’s original 1986 “Anal Staircase” is a Stravinsky-sampling bruiser that seems to invite the listener to previously unknown pleasures, but Daniel replaces the unsettling laughter of the original with a hint of lounge vibe, and Balance’s screams simmer down to a close mic . would whisper. This is a vision of sex, not as something forbidden or forbidden, but as a healthy part of a comfortable life. The anal staircase is carpeted in velvet.
Daniel commits to a luxury version of deep house on these four tracks, ripe with remnants of disco. The bass is big and plummy, and electric pianos mumble and splash. The title track exists to flex this style. Acetone’s Mark Lightcap soars with a guitar lead that brings to mind 70s sleaze axle seduction school, while a harpsichord performance from Tom Boram elevates it all to the kind of orgiastic garden-of-paradise fantasy Prince conjured up on late 80s deep cut ‘Adonis & Bathsheba’. The pitch-shifted hi-hats, which seem to scour through mud, give a whiff of the peaty fertility of the early 2000s albums by Matthew Herbert (whose challenge to Daniel to make house music led to the inception of Soft Pink Truth).
Much of Soft Pink Truth’s catalog is devoted to provocative electronic tributes to genres such as hardcore, black metal and crust-punk. This is his first project-length pastiche that isn’t a complete subversion, and it continues the turn away from “angry-white-guy music” that Daniel started in the 2020s. Shall we continue to sin so that grace may increase? Like that record, Was it ever real? is a luxurious, collaboration-heavy work that’s easier on the ears than most of his music. Unlike Sinner, this is a direct genre experiment, leaning into the carnal qualities of club music without exaggerating or sending them up, tunneling towards the center of classic deep house rather than scratching at the margins as Daniel did on his 2003 debut Are you partying?
As such, it’s the Soft Pink Truth release that fits in best with most DJ sets and road trips. (Daniel will expand on this style further in October, when he will release a full-length called Is it going to get deeper than this?) In the absence of the project’s usual puckish unpredictability, the appeal of Was it ever real? lies largely in hearing Daniel focus all his attention on a single sound while infusing it with a genuine eroticism that’s sexy not because it’s raunchy, sassy or foul-mouthed, but because it’s lived.
All products on Pitchfork are independently selected by our editors. However, when you purchase something through our reseller links, we may earn an affiliate commission.