Gordi dives into the aching depths of her gut-wrenching and graceful new EP ‘Inhuman,’ an innately human record exploring what it means to live, be alive, and survive in this turbulent, traumatic world.
Stream: “Way I Go” – Gordi
Worlds around us come apart
And we only look further inwards
Making ourselves inhumanely immune
To suffering suffered by anyone else.
So, I think again, of myself
Of time machines
The sorrow of homecoming.
– Sophie Payten (Gordi)
Gordi’s latest EP may be titled Inhuman, but don’t let the name fool you: This is easily one of the most human records released all year.
After the trauma and turmoil so many of us have experienced (and continue to experience) over these past few years, it helps to have music that both comforts us, while reminding us that it’s okay to not be okay: That sometimes you’ll feel like a stranger to your own body or your own home. Sometimes you’ll want to escape for an eternity, and shut the world off for awhile. Sometimes you’ll feel broken, fractured, or incomplete.
Gut-wrenching and graceful, Inhuman is innately human: A candid reflection, or rather an honest exploration of what it means to live and be alive. Gordi has poured her heart and soul into a stunningly raw and beautifully intimate collection of songs exploring the depths of vulnerability, connection, identity, and change.
We were walking so long I forgot
Where we were going
Found a place we did not recognize
And I’m, I’m alright not knowing
Hallucinating with the morning light
Cover me in fantasy
Getting swept up in a storyline and I’ll
Let it take me out to sea…
Feel heavily, no gravity
You’re the way I go
We’re winding like an open road
You’re the way I go
Released August 19, 2022 via Jagjaguwar, Inhuman is the cathartic musical and emotional unburdening we’ve been waiting for. It’s the tense breath we’ve held in our lungs for the past two and a half-plus years (some of us for much, much longer); the exhale we’ve refused to fully let go; the whisper inside that, over time, built up into a visceral, uncompromising shout.
The follow-up to Gordi’s celebrated 2020 sophomore album Our Two Skins sees the LA by-way-of Sydney singer/songwriter (née Sophie Payten) building upon the breathtaking folktronic sounds and heart-on-sleeve vulnerability she’s made a signature part of her artistry over these past seven years; Atwood previously praised Our Two Skins as a “set of deeply personal, incredibly moving songs brimming with weight and meaning” that revealed an artist deep in the throes of inner reckoning, self-discovery, pride, and acceptance.”
For those unfamiliar with Gordi’s backstory, it’s been a long past few years for Sophie Payten. A musician by trade and a doctor by degree, 2020 saw Payten return to working in the medical field, assisting with under-staffed local hospitals in Melbourne and regional Australia during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was certainly not the couple of years I had in mind,” she says. “I spent a lot more time working hospital shifts than making music. Before vaccines it was a scary time. I kept thinking I had brought the virus home from work with me. Everyone was just so scared all the time. Then I started working in vaccination clinics – that felt pretty special because we were doing something so important. I have nothing but admiration for the healthcare workers who have been in those places day in and day out for the past two years.”
“To be honest, those experiences made me want to work in medicine less. I think that’s been a pretty common reaction. I am extremely grateful now I can turn my attention back to music for a while.”
Inhuman‘s six tracks were compiled from different moments, places, and spaces over the past several years. Gordi describes the EP as a collection of songs that hadn’t found a home: “They were ideas and voice memos that I knew didn’t belong on the next album, but I still really wanted to finish and share them,” she tells Atwood Magazine. “It was really nice working on something that felt pressure-less – like I was just making music because I wanted to.”
Like a musical smorgasbord, the end result is diverse, yet cohesive in that it showcases many sides of the same artist. In its own way, Inhuman feels like a world unto itself.
“The vision for this EP was just to let each song be what it is,” Gordi explains. “I made these songs while the world still felt closed – particularly to Australia – and so I finished these songs because I wanted a project to focus on. By the time I had a collection of songs, the common threads started to reveal themselves. I had used a bunch of drum samples recorded by JT Bates on ‘Inhuman’ and ‘Burn All The Time Machines’, and JT had also recorded a drum take for ‘Stranger.’ His drum sounds and way of playing weave themselves really beautifully through these songs. At the end of the process I could see elements repeating themselves in that way and tried to really lean into them.”
“I just made this record in my little studio, which sits above a pub in Brunswick in Melbourne,” she adds. “The building is super run down and has a hectic pigeon problem – there are actually pigeons in the walls and ceiling and they make noise all the time. The soundproofing is terrible – you can hear in ‘Visitor’ the sound of a motorbike tearing down Sydney Road in the second verse (I kept it because why not).”
This EP feels unvarnished in a good way; it’s really just me noodling away and recording stuff I like the sound of, and suddenly 8 hours have passed.
While these songs were undoubtedly fun to make, their subject matter runs deep; Gordi is no stranger to heavier material, having meticulously picked apart aspects of her own anxiety in her last LP.
Inhuman is an especially heavy record, as its name suggests:
“Inhuman is supposed to describe the shitty feeling you get when you turn off the news because it’s too hard to watch,” Gordi shares. “It’s the feeling I get when I’m sitting in a studio writing a song and I’m thinking about how I could be starting a shift in the emergency department. I guess it’s another word for guilt.”
From the delicate caress of EP opener “Way I Go” and the electopop churn of the title track “Inhuman” and the subtle, smoldering upheaval “Burn All the Time Machines,” to the folk-tinged indie rock of “Stranger” and the bright, bittersweet gleam of “Visitor,” Gordi ensures that listeners come away feeling like a heavy weight has been lifted. These songs are fragile, yet self-assured: Driven by an inner strength and resilience that we don’t always see, but can intensely feel throughout Gordi’s performance.
“‘Stranger’ has a special place for me,” Gordi says on the topic of favorites and personal highlights. “It’s a song that’s been rattling around 5 years and normally I would let something that old go, but I’ve always felt compelled to make it the best it can be. Time off the road during the pandemic gave me time to show it some attention, and I’m so happy to share it. I think my favourite lyric on this EP is from ‘Stranger’ – ‘Oblivious we were cooling down, our days were loaned.'”
Like a hammer making the iron glow
No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t shape you, no
Oblivious we were cooling down
Our days were loaned
I was moving like a sinking stone
I was a stranger to someone who knew me
Though they could recognise my face
Couldn’t escape to all my dreaming
So left my body in the waste
But I’ve been thinking about you, stranger
Kept on looking for some room to spare
Found a dozen others buried there
Asked for logic from the unsneering they said I should know
There are other ways for me to go
Inhuman is admittedly a shorter release ahead of an anticipated third LP in 2023, but let us not deny these special songs their rightful place in Gordi’s catalog simply because they’re not on a full-length album. Inhuman is as tender and as aching as it gets: A haunting, but not haunted, record full of warmth, depth, and nuance. It’s Gordi at her best: Unapologetically honest and answering to no one but herself.
“I hope folks just enjoy listening to it,” the artist shares. “I hope they think about the world and about themselves, and then I hope they close their eyes and just have a moment’s peace. The whole process has blissfully reminded me that I just really love making music.”
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Gordi’s Inhuman EP with Atwood Magazine as she goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of her latest release!
Stream: ‘Inhuman’ – Gordi
:: Inside Inhuman ::
Way I Go
It had been a while since I’d written a song. I’d been so deep in the Our Two Skins record and had then begun working in hospitals again during the pandemic, so I felt as though I had no room for new creative ideas. In the middle of 2021, I set aside a week in Sydney to do some writing and asked Alex Lahey to come by on the first day and help me get the wheels turning again. I had the first line of this song “We were walking so long I forgot where we were going” and Alex started playing some chords on a nylon string guitar. We wrote and recorded most of it that day. It’s a song about when love feels new and old.
I stole the instrumental hook for this song from an earlier version of ‘Burn All The Time Machines’ and put it on top of a Casio drum loop, and some more samples from JT. Sitting in my studio above noisy Sydney Road in Brunswick, I recorded this song over the sounds of pigeons trapped in the walls of the old building, sirens dinging past every other minute. It’s the room where this EP came together. A constant muttering from people these days is that they have “stopped watching the news”. The level of suffering these past years has been too overwhelming and paralysing. But to ignore it is to feel empty; inhuman.
In the January of 2017 I was making my first record. After spending the day with Alex Somers in his studio in Reykjavík, I walked back through the heavy snow to my hostel. I was staying in a dormitory but no one else was there, perhaps because it was the darkest time of the Icelandic winter. I sat down on one of the eight bunk beds and wrote ‘Stranger’. So absorbed in the process of making the record, I was unable to be present in anything else, detached from life back home. The song has lived in many forms since, and I’ve always wanted to find a home for it. In one of Melbourne’s many lockdowns, I rewrote the track. My friend, JT Bates, recorded some drums somewhere in the Midwest of the US and sent the files over to me. Gradually, I glued it all together with production help from Alex Lahey.
Goodbyes and hellos and waving through car windows. I have spent a lot of my life driving long distances. The thrill of the new, sitting uncomfortably next to the sorrow of having to move on. Returning to a chapter of life only to feel like a visitor, a stranger to your own experience. This song began sitting at my parents’ piano, I built the arrangement over six or seven months. As the song came together, a phrase I had come across circled around my head: the literal meaning of the overused and under-appreciated “nostalgia” – the sorrow of homecoming.
Burn All The Time Machines
I don’t know that I’ve written a song that has changed more than this one. When I sat down to write it, I had been thinking a lot about what it was like to be a queer kid when I was in high school in the late 2000’s. Then, in Australia at the beginning of this year, a debate around expulsion of teachers and students from schools, based on their sexuality or gender, on religious grounds was reignited. It was an enraging, devastating debate. The sound bites in the middle-8 of the song are from the coverage of the damaging conversations that were had. The drum samples are from JT Bates.
Grass Is Blue
I think of this EP as three pairs of sonic partners. ‘Inhuman’ and ‘Burn All The Time Machines’, ‘Way I Go’ and ‘Stranger’ – ‘Grass Is Blue’, my cover of Dolly Parton’s beauty, seemed the ideal pairing for ‘Visitor’. Piano takes for both songs were recorded on the same instrument in the same room. With this track, this small body of work feels complete.
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? © Jess Gleeson
:: Stream Gordi ::