It’s one thing to expose yourself, and another to be seen. One thing to be immortalized and another to be remembered. As much as yeule’s music tears into the vast space between the human and the artificial, it also magnifies those imperceptibly different shades of experience, the kinds that can make or break a body, making them feel infinite. “Feels like shit/ When you read me/ Like you all know,” yeule sang on ‘Eyes’, a track from their phenomenal 2022 album Glitch Princess that twisted its gentleness into something ominous and self-erasing. On some of the most memorable moments of their thrilling new LP softscars, though, they preserve not only its beauty, but the warmth and intimacy of an honest gaze that’s capable of piercing through the deepest depression: “Only eyes like yours can see ghosts/ Ghosts like me”; “I’m staring at you from the cliff/ I’m looking down, I feel the bliss/ I wanna jump, but I see your eyes.” Starting from their 2019 debut Serotonin II, yeule’s output used to scan like a portal to a fractured, digitized interior world, but it’s sounding more and more like a vehicle for looking through and holding out for each other.
The Singaporean singer-songwriter, also known as Nat Ćmiel, could have sulked in the distorted blur of growing up Gen Z instead of affording their project the grueling process of becoming. Yet the person behind it feels more and more present. While Glitch Princess flicked through ambient and (occasionally) strangely euphoric pop, expressing vulnerability while still embracing themselves as a cyborg identity, the new record digs into some of those old scars and makes them feel not just traceable, but palpable. Ćmiel achieves this partly by channeling some of their earliest musical inspirations, from Smashing Pumpkins to Avril Lavigne. “I was listening to a lot of music that made me feel like I was a teenager again because I was so afraid of growing up,” they said in an interview. “I was losing people from my childhood. I wanted to write music that sounded like everything was simple.” That simpicity is evident on ‘dazies’, exemplifies the record’s soft/heavy dynamic and makes wears those formative influences on its sleeve. But yeule’s AutoTuned voice introduces a layer of emotional complexity, sounding like they’re drifting through past trauma with a kind of shaky disaffection.
On opener ‘x w x’, yeule lets out a tortured, full-bodied scream, providing the sort of catharsis that allows them to glide through gentler, more electronic textures throughout the rest of the album. But genuine as it may be, it’s a kind of sweetness that often sounds bristly and brightly overexposed. “You stabbed me right in the chest/ And made me bleed, and made me wet/ With my own blood, drained with love,” yeule sings on the title track. But while the pain cuts deep, as in any of yeule’s albums, this time the love cuts deeper, especially as they are the ones directing it outward. On Glitch Princess standout ‘Bites on My Neck’, walking through the fire served a symbolic act of defiance in the personal process of healing, but this album’s more muted ‘inferno’, which meditates on the rusty memory of someone who’s faded away, uses similarly potent metaphors to evoke an eternal connection: “I would still bleed out/ Just for you/ I would still love you/ 10,000 years from now.”
On Glitch Princess, yeule’s interest in post-humanism offered a conceptual framework through which to validate a deep resentment for their own body. “How can I burn out of my own real body?” they asked directly on ‘Eyes’, and that same yearning echoes through softscars‘ ‘bloodbunny’: “Don’t you feel so pure/ When you don’t have a body anymore?” But there is a delicateness to the track that’s grounded in pure love, driven not so much by the need to grapple with personal demons but to not be alone in them. yeule uses the phrase “love you” on multiple tracks here; sometimes it feels overwhelming, oblivious, damaged, or fragmented by the technologies that mediate it. But even if the you remains ambivalent, their delivery renders it as real and present as the I – it’s a bond that reaches through, not a means of escaping, the physical realm. yeule just wants us to see it.