Sofie Fatouretchi, a multifaceted creative based in Vienna, has an impressive resume. Previously working for record label Stones Throw and currently hosting her own radio show on NTS of London, Sofie also manages to paint, model, play classical violin, study psychology, and most recently, release a full-length album. Despite this eclectic history, it’s clear one of Sofie’s greatest passions is art. When examining her paintings, the overlap of her creative style between mediums comes into focus and shows an artist truly invested in her craft. The bold colors of her work on canvas reflect the violin she’s played since she was four; the strokes of color are cohesive yet feel unplanned, just as her recitals inevitably became “improvised” to the apparent amusement of her teacher. This relationship between the colorful motif of Sofie’s visual and auditory art continues on Cult Survivor with bright, synthy songs. Unfortunately, despite fun fusions of 60s and late 80s pop along with a jangly, indie edge, Cult Survivor struggles under Sofie’s often strained vocals and songs in need of better development.
We are introduced to the album’s palette of synth and MIDI drums by “Hollywood Walk of Fame.” These instruments stick around for the entire project, often backing melodies that remain boringly stagnant in their minimal structure. But Sofie’s voice is where the album particularly stumbles. While it’s not always unpleasant, repetitive harmonies and layering combined with her early Lana Del Rey-esque, one-dimensional tone make for an underwhelming and sometimes irritating listen (a prime example being the track “Guest”). Still, the artist–who produced the album and plays nearly all the instruments heard–has created some songs enjoyable in their vintage stylings. When the album reaches its eighth track, “Truth of the Matter,” Sofie’s sound is better developed. With springy synth and drums, it sounds like a great pop tune straight from the Monkees and Beach Boys era.
In an interview with Weirdo Music Forever, Sofie remarked, “I’ve realized the toll that [singing] takes on your voice, because I don’t do vocal exercises, and I wouldn’t consider myself a singer.” Although this certainly doesn’t disqualify her from singing, it does mean Cult Survivor can sound more like karaoke than a studio album. When the project’s messy mixing and sometimes muddy production are added to the mix, Cult Survivor can easily sound like a compilation of demos–the lifeless MIDI drums doubling down on this sound. Nonetheless, songs such as “Georgia Waves” are pleasant enough with Sofie singing about “the girl with the Georgia waves” through a more engaging melody progression and song structure.
Other flaws, such as a spoken-word verse in “Baby” that really shouldn’t be there, are noticeable but don’t ruin the project as a whole. Some stylistic choices are also questionable, like the abrupt departure from retro-tinged production on “Happen 2 B There.” Then there’s “Interlude,” a short, instrumental entry that feels completely unnecessary. Even so, Cult Survivor shows promise. If future releases have the benefit of further, more deliberate formation and vocals operating in a more suitable tone, Sofie’s colorful musical tendencies will likely shine.