The getting of wisdom (Melody Maker, 2/11/96, by Sharon O'Connel)
Sophia's beautiful gravity is a world away from the God Machine
'I still can't pick up a electric guitar and create music in the way that I created music with the God Machine, because it doesn't really express the things that are inside of me know,' explains Robin Proper-Sheppard. Those things are the sobering twin experiences of love and death that have radically reshaped the last two years of Robin's life since the sudden demise of the God Machine's bassplayer, Jimmy Fernandez. And they're fuel for the gorgeously grave songs of Sophia, in which members of Ligament, The Unsophisticates, Elevate and Oil seed rape collude to surprisingly understated effect. For comparitative emotional punch, think Smog, Cardinal, Lambchop. Sophia is a long way from the epic metaphysical thunderings of the God Machine. `The reason for that is the really heavy dose of reality I was forced to take in the last couple of years' says Robin. `The songs I wrote in The God Machine were based on an almost naive idea of my place in the universe. I now don't feel like I had really experienced anything. There's a quite worry for me about people who were into the God Machine approaching this music,' he adds, `but I hope they can see that although it might be texturally different, the emotional aspect is similar. And I haven't left them behind.'
Robin Defiant (NME, 2/11/96, by James Oldham)
In the space of a second, you're life could change forever. Some forces are just beyond human control. That's something that Robin Proper-Sheppard understands better than most people. You only have to listen to the resigned laments of his new band, SOPHIA, to realise that here's a man accustomed to the iniquities of modern life.
Robin was one of the three San Diegans who travelled to London in 1988. They had no money and nowhere to stay, but they were in a band called The God Machine. They were lucky. People quickly grew to like their brutal cacophony and they were signed. By 1994, they were on the verge of releasing their second album (eventually titled 'One last laugh in a place of dying'), when Robin received the phone call. His friend, and the band's bassist, Jimmy Fernandez had died after suffering a brain haemorrhage. He didn't believe it, he couldn't understand it; his whole life had been irretrievably altered. The band was inevitably finished, and for the next few months Robin led a virtually solitary life confined to a single room in a north London bedsit. "I'd sold all the band's equipment, and I was thinking, I can't stay here any longer", he recalls. "My phone was off the hook, I found it difficult to communicate even on a superficial basis. And then... well basically I wrote a song called 'So Slow' and it made me realise that songwriting is what I do." It had taken him a year even to reach this point, but, encouraged by this breakthrough, he wrote several more songs on his acoustic guitar. Throughout this period, he'd occupied much of his time releasing records through his own Flower Shop label. His friends from these bands now encouraged to record the songs properly. The Sophia collective was born, comprising Graham Miles and James Elkington from Elevate (guitars), Tim Cedar from Ligament (drums) and Dan Mulligan from Oil seed rape (bass). Together they've recorded a frighteningly intense album -'Fixed water' - a country record that recalls the most sparse and revealing moments of Palace, Smog and Mazzy Star. This is the last two years of Robin's life - uncensored and unembellished. "Well, I just like the simplicity of country music," admits Robin. "Hank Williams says exactly what he means whether he's talking about dying flowers, women who don't love him or just death itself - he doesn't try to hide it. It's that I relate to, it's what moves me." It's the same with Sophia. Try them, they'll change your life.