People don’t like to be put in boxes, yet categorization is essential for understanding. For example, we’ve placed this album in Modern Composition, zeroing in on its dominant element. Drum & Lace (Sofia Hultquist) would likely prefer Other, although that’s not one of our genres. “Outsider Complex Part 1 and 2” bracket the EP, and speak to a feeling of “never quite fitting in.” We have an alternate proposition: that the chameleon’s ability to fit in multiple places is a more valuable trait, loosely defined as flexibility or adaptability. This is where Hultquist does fit in ~ the outsider turned insider by default. These two pieces (which seem even more like one when played in reverse order, the ending of the last mimicking the beginning and end of the first) are rife with yearning, the strings reaching for something undefined, the piano seeking out a melody, the cello tentatively staking a claim. Outsider status can be a badge, rather than an albatross. The brilliant bookend bursts are declarative, as if the artist is making an announcement: now I know who I am.
Are these semi songs? The title is ironic. Would these compositions, if given words, protest that they are full songs, and thus real songs, echoing Pinocchio? Would they be upset that they have been put in a box? To reference a current film, Toy Story 4‘s Forky is considered a real toy, even though he seems physically incomplete. In the same way, one might say that none of us are complete (although some are striving for completeness while others are not).
Tackling a societal theme, Hultquist notes the aspects shared by humanity, along with the forces that threaten social cohesion. It’s easy to glean a larger message in the statement, “the sparseness of the arrangements at times allows for the different instrument’s voices to speak to one another, conversing throughout different ranges and pitches, checking in with one another.” Each voice is indeed distinct, although each finds its sonic space, members of the animal kingdom claiming their own frequencies. In “Parhelion,” the piano decides to prance. As if inspired, the violin joins the fray in like a proud reindeer. In “Gardenia,” which takes up half of the EP’s length, everything is calmer, more confident. One can hear the garden growing seed by seed. When one feels like an outsider, one has a choice: to try harder to join a group of insiders, losing one’s self in the process; or to create an alternative space, shepherding other outsiders to the fold. This is what Hultquist accomplishes in this tender, intricate release. (Richard Allen)