The Soft Pink Truth's Entrancing New Album Is a Stellar Change of Pace

Photo: Josh Sisk / Courtesy of Thrill Jockey Records

Matmos' Drew Daniels rebrands his solo work to meet the trying times, offering up an ambient techno classic for the ages under his Soft Pink Truth moniker.

Shall We Go on Sinning So That Grace May Increase?
The Soft Pink Truth

Thrill Jockey

1 May 2020

The modern Christian take on sin is that it can be forgiven, so the next logical question inevitably follows: why stop sinning? In Romans 6, Paul the Apostle approached the idea of God offering more grace to sinners with a warning for any misinterpretation – don't gamble with what you are powerless to. Religion exists in part to train people to believe in punishment for your actions, that disobeying the preordained law can result in your damnation. What happens though when society seems to never reflect that by allowing people to fail upwards and to get away with the vilest injustices? More specifically, how can one watch seemingly the most stupid narcissist on Earth become President, and you have to accept that many people around you – or better put, above you – want it that way?

These moral conundrums forced Drew Daniel to rethink how he makes music, and from the New Testament-quoting title onward, it's clear a new aesthetic direction was fully conceived. Daniel is one half of the electronic music duo Matmos, who peaked around the turn of the century with 1999's The West and 2001's A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure. Their sound is an experimental form of IDM and a bit too melodic to be considered glitch. Daniel has used the Soft Pink Truth moniker for solo work since the early 2000s, and up to now, it has essentially only existed as a Matmos side project. His solo work has been a bit facetious with an eye towards more conventional electronica, so it's safe to say that Shall We Go on Sinning So That Grace May Increase? comes a bit out of nowhere and is surely the most impactful release he's ever made, Matmos included.

Drew Daniel's evolution goes beyond the introduction of thematic weight into his craft; he realized the entire aesthetic had to change to meet the new demands. Where once existed comical 4/4 dance beats is now subtlety in pace. Big DFA Records-style drumming is replaced by percussion that is always carefully-considered before being used. Brazen vocal samples are cast aside for an angelic chorus of Colin Self, Angel Deradoorian, and Jana Hunter throughout the album. The danger in throwing out your old clothes, so to speak, is that your new clothes might not fit right. Instead, the new garb of spiritual ambient techno illuminates Daniel's artistic style to its fullest extent.

The album starts in limbo and lets the listener remain there until the middle of the second track. The angelic chorus repeats the title, implanting it in your head musically rather than letting it stay stagnant as a Bible quote. To take it further, the full quote is spread across sequentially in each song title; we are enveloped in this quote, and within every interpretation and significance it contains. As the second track, "We", slowly takes shape, Daniel's aesthetic intent becomes clear. What seems quiet and lugubrious is actually palatial with a vibrant depth in each track's mix. The vibraphone and saxophone flesh out much of the album's beautifully washed-out textures; the latter instrument is notoriously hard to keep in check, and it'd still be easy to miss without liner notes.

The key to the album is its pace and track flow, and in that regard, it is flawless – truly one of the best examples for an album of this caliber in quite some time. What Shall We Go on Sinning shows is that great album flow is not the same for every album. They can flow like a seamless mix (The Avalanches' Since I Left You), or there can be startling shifts throughout (Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot). This album implements both methods, and each track change is justified. "Shall" to "We" makes for a jostling introduction without a break, while "We" to "Go" is also without a break but is barely noticeable without your listening device telling you when the track changed. The appearance of silence at the start of "On" becomes something to take note of because the album has already succeeded in training you to listen to every shift. It's great to hear albums that intelligently consider this even when skipping a track has become easier than ever.

The album's flow peaks with the final half, which runs as a mini-suite. The piano that begins "So" stays in remnants until the end, and the result is absolutely entrancing as Daniel's ability to manipulate subtle changes in the mix is spotlighted. It peaks in "Grace" with a pent-up release that was about 37 minutes in the making. An intensity in sound appears that will leave you gobsmacked, but it won't work unless you've listened to everything before it. The album lends itself for you to expect a payoff but not quite like this; it's impressive, to say the least.

The album came about as Daniels questioned what type of music felt right for this moment. The Trump presidency has startled many into self-reflection and activism, and this has come through often in protest music. The associative emotion with protest music is what Daniels pondered on, and he went against rage – not altogether but just from his viewpoint as a white male. Shall We Go on Sinning then becomes an album of anti-rage – not necessarily peace but a recognition of turmoil and finding solace in what is still left to find joy in: community and music. May it keep going on.







Zadie Smith's 'Intimations' Essays Pandemic With Erudite Wit and Compassion

Zadie Smith's Intimations is an essay collection of gleaming, wry, and crisp prose that wears its erudition lightly but takes flight on both everyday and lofty matters.


Phil Elverum Sings His Memoir on 'Microphones in 2020'

On his first studio album under the Microphones moniker since 2003, Phil Elverum shows he has been recording the same song since he was a teenager in the mid-1990s. Microphones in 2020 might be his apex as a songwriter.


Washed Out's 'Purple Noon' Supplies Reassurance and Comfort

Washed Out's Purple Noon makes an argument against cynicism simply by existing and sounding as good as it does.


'Eight Gates' Is Jason Molina's Stark, Haunting, Posthumous Artistic Statement

The ten songs on Eight Gates from the late Jason Molina are fascinating, despite – or perhaps because of – their raw, unfinished feel.


Apocalypse '45 Uses Gloriously Restored Footage to Reveal the Ugliest Side of Our Nature

Erik Nelson's gorgeously restored Pacific War color footage in Apocalypse '45 makes a dramatic backdrop for his revealing interviews with veterans who survived the brutality of "a war without mercy".


12 Brilliant Recent Jazz Albums That Shouldn't Be Missed

There is so much wonderful creative music these days that even an apartment-bound critic misses too much of it. Here is jazz from the last 18 months that shouldn't be missed.


Blues Legend Bobby Rush Reinvigorates the Classic "Dust My Broom" (premiere)

Still going strong at 86, blues legend Bobby Rush presents "Dust My Broom" from an upcoming salute to Mississippi blues history, Rawer Than Raw, rendered in his inimitable style.


Folk Rock's the Brevet Give a Glimmer of Hope With "Blue Coast" (premiere)

Dreamy bits of sunshine find their way through the clouds of dreams dashed and lives on the brink of despair on "Blue Coast" from soulful rockers the Brevet.


Michael McArthur's "How to Fall in Love" Isn't a Roadmap (premiere)

In tune with classic 1970s folk, Michael McArthur weaves a spellbinding tale of personal growth and hope for the future with "How to Fall in Love".


Greta Gerwig's Adaptation of Loneliness in Louisa May Alcott's 'Little Women'

Greta Gerwig's film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel Little Women strays from the dominating theme of existential loneliness.


The Band's Discontented Third LP, 1970's 'Stage Fright', Represented a World Braving Calamity

Released 50 years ago this month, the Band's Stage Fright remains a marker of cultural unrest not yet remedied.


Natalie Schlabs Starts Living the Lifetime Dream With "That Early Love" (premiere + interview)

Unleashing the power of love with a new single and music video premiere, Natalie Schlabs is hoping to spread the word while letting her striking voice be heard ahead of Don't Look Too Close, the full-length album she will release in October.


Rufus Wainwright Makes a Welcome Return to Pop with 'Unfollow the Rules'

Rufus Wainwright has done Judy Garland, Shakespeare, and opera, so now it's time for Rufus to rediscover Rufus on Unfollow the Rules.


Jazz's Denny Zeitlin and Trio Get Adventurous on 'Live at Mezzrow'

West Coast pianist Denny Zeitlin creates a classic and adventurous live set with his long-standing trio featuring Buster Williams and Matt Wilson on Live at Mezzrow.


The Inescapable Violence in Netflix's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui)

Fernando Frías de la Parra's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui) is part of a growing body of Latin American social realist films that show how creativity can serve a means of survival in tough circumstances.


Arlo McKinley's Confessional Country/Folk Is Superb on 'Die Midwestern'

Country/folk singer-songwriter Arlo McKinley's debut Die Midwestern marries painful honesty with solid melodies and strong arrangements.


Viserra Combine Guitar Heroics and Female Vocals on 'Siren Star'

If you ever thought 2000s hard rock needed more guitar leads and solos, Viserra have you covered with Siren Star.


Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts Honor Their Favorite Songs With "Oh No" (premiere)

Ryan Hamilton's "Oh No" features guest vocals from Kay Hanley of Letters to Cleo, and appears on Nowhere to Go But Everywhere out 18 September.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.