Melody Maker (23/11/96, by Jennifer Nine)
There's no mistaken the tone: sorrow, longing, abandonment and loss set to a skeletal orchestra in which acoustic guitar and pedal steel are only as prominent as the chilly sound of the room in which they hover like regretful ghosts. There's no mistaken the effect: the weary peace that comes after tears. But you might be surprised at the source. Robin Proper-Sheppard formerly of the God Machine's savage parish, has sculpted a quietly moving eight song elegy for which vulnerable is hardly an adequate description: 'Fixed water' is so naked it's practically peeled, with only the gentle music to provide a cloak of dignity. You don't need to know the details of the tragedies that inspired it to appreciate the glacier-slow elegy of 'Is it any wonder', the lonely Neil Young-like majesty of 'Are you happy now?' or a slowly cracking 'Last night I had a dream', sounding like Mick Jagger singing 'Wild Horses' at the end of the universe. Or the near unbearably beautiful 'So slow' - "Death comes so slow/when it's all you want/and it takes the ones that don't"- cracking helplessly over the hymn-like uplift of the melody. The fearless, inarticulate speech of the broken heart.

NME (2/11/96, by Stephen Dalton)
To make a record this sombre you either need to be Nick Cave, a 60-years-old alcoholic who has pissed away all his chances, or a born again lo-fi troubadour whose life has been rocked beyond repair by grief and loss. Robin Proper-Sheppard, aka Sophia, falls into the latter category. This is the first self-penned material from the Flower Shop label boss since the death, from a brain tumour, from his former partner in noisy industro-goth gloomsters The God Machine, Jimmy Fernandez. Perhaps, inevitably then, it's a relentlessly bleak and downbeat item, consumed by mournful desolation and shot through with solemn acknowledgement of mortality. Part elegy and part diaristic confessional, 'Fixed Water' occasionally rages hard against the dying of the light, but mostly just surrenders wearily to its flickering flame. With softly strummed acoustic guitars, plus low-key instrumental backing by members of Ligament and Elevate, Robin has travelled light years from the storm-lashed sonic battlements of his God Machine days. Will Palace is the most obvious reference point, though there are flashes here of Sparklehorse's bruised majesty in chiming sobathons such as 'So Slow', Galaxy 500 in spooked twinklers like 'I can't believe the things I can't believe', and even Neil Young in the full-on anthemic country-rock chuggerama of 'Are you happy know?' Of course, because of the events behind this album, it feels slightly churlish to nit-pick at its limitations. But sometimes Robin undeniably pushes his grief-stricken croak down too mannered and one-dimensional a path, blunting the emotional impact of a 'Death of a salesman' or 'Another friend' with plodding delivery and an almost theatrical melancholy. When the misery card is overplayed, style swamps content and the songs suffer accordingly. Mostly, however, 'Fixed Water' is a lovingly crafted and heartfelt tribute to absent friends. (7)

Watt (1/1/97, by Frank Janssen)
Sophia is Robin Proper-Sheppard, the former God Machine singer, Flower Shop Recordings is Robin’s own label and Fixed Water is the new album. Important information for everyone who fell for the tearjerker beauty of the God Machine album 'One Last Laugh In A Place Of Dying'. Fixed Water is cut from the same cloth as One Last Laugh. Most definitely not a happy record. The melancholy and autumnal mood permeate the record in such a way you could almost reach out and touch them. Robin’s voice is certainly not the strongest aspect of the Sophia project, which includes members of the group Elevate. But the subdued, mainly acoustic and basic arrangements are remarkably atmospheric. The music is fragile, the lyrics are down right pessimistic: lines such as 'This world is full of lies', 'love has no meaning', 'death comes so slow when you're waiting to be taken', 'I'm only happy when you're sad', make it clear that Robin isn’t exactly skipping through the fields picking daisies. The confrontational, biting, cutting to the quick of the God Machine has been exchanged for introspection, calm, but the drama remains, as does the beaten down mood, the melancholy thick as molasses, and Robin’s search for the meaning of life. He wrestles daily with the abstraction of life and death and the triviality of his existence. This is also his muse. Although there’s no point in comparing Fixed Water with One Last Laugh.., this does not reach the level of the unprecedented beauty of the last God Machine record. But Fixed Water does intrigue, and will regularly find its way into my CD player during those soul-searching moments. Because, to be honest, Robin Proper-Sheppard has once again managed to strike a nerve. (*** out of 5)

OOR (by Erik van den Berg)
No female vocalist, this is the new project of Robin Proper-Sheppard, who left the States for the UK and filled the role of singer/guitarist in the semi-legendary God Machine. In its short existence (92-94), this trio released two monumental albums, in which the switch between narcotic, suffocating intense noise and utterly vulnerable moments created a dynamic never heard before (the Pumpkins managed to get rich and famous with it). The sudden death of bassist Jimmy Fernandez in the middle of '94 was the impetus for the group’s decision to call it quits. It is Jimmy’s death that stands at the centre of Fixed Water, which was released on Robin’s own label.
The guitar noise from before is nowhere to be found here, where Robin sings about death and pain, sorrow and consolation and the numbness in his emotional life against an intimate softly sad musical background. 'Is it any wonder that to me, love has no meaning?' These are lyrics filled with unanswered questions, captured in fragile melodies and music just a steel pedal away from the most melancholy form of country. Or does the steel pedal suddenly appear-or is it a figment of the imagination? Either way, what a beautiful record.

Rifraf (1/11/96, by Ron van der Sterren)
After the death of God Machine bassist Jimmy Fernandez, the band likewise shuffled off this mortal coil. Singer/guitarist Robin Proper-Sheppard lives on, and with this project he attempts to make sense out of his dear friend’s passing. Although Sheppard has abandoned the heavy sound of the God Machine, that’s not to say 'Fixed Water' is easy listening. The songs are awash in sadness. The sometimes shrieking vocals of yore are now a voice of defeat, a keening storyteller, and the electric guitar has been set aside for an acoustic, the bombastic heavy drums and bass now simply serve to keep time. Musically speaking, Sheppard has much less to offer than he did with God Machine. But clearly the intention of this music is merely to support Sheppard’s tragic words. In that sense, it works.

Opscene (1/2/97, by MR)
Solo project of the former God Machine singer, Robin Proper-Sheppard, released on his own label. You wouldn’t expect it but this is a beautifully subdued record that sometimes brings the Red House Painters to mind. Robin is not the most cheerful guy, with lyrics such as 'Death comes so slow when you're waiting', but his sorrow is actually more cleansing than depressing. That’s how it should be.

Uptomusic (by Dave Peeters)
Following the apocalyptic tornadoes, delicate pearls and guitar chaos of the God Machine, front man Robin Proper-Sheppard has discovered a new form of occupational therapy with Sophia. The band turns its back on harsh chord schemes and stays with a melancholy fragility so dark that in terms of depression it personifies a black hole. Spare guitar lines, subdued drums and tortured vocals. During live performances, the group members perch on chairs and at times you could hear the smallest of pins drop. A well-known philosopher once discussed the concept of anger suppression and how man takes emotions such as pain, frustration and rage and uses them to create art. Robin Proper-Sheppard is living proof of this theory and illustrates it in songs including 'The Death Of A Salesman' and particularly 'So Slow'. 'Fixed Water' is a scrapbook of eight nostalgic pictures taken by the soul, and one that will also surely strike a chord somewhere within you.

Q Magazine (March '97, by Martin Aston)
Robin Proper-Sheppard's musical response to the sudden death of fellow God Machine founder Jimmy Fernandez is an exquisitely sad record in the tradition of Neil Young's On The Beach, Gram Parsons's Grievous Angel and Nick Drake's Pink Moon. Given his penchant for power-trio grandeur, it's a shock that Sheppard can command such economical frailty, but he and fellow musicians from the Flower Shop stable have mastered the spellbound, haunted elegy, leaving Sheppard's trembling baritone beautifully bare (Is It Any Wonder, Death Of A Salesman), or embellishing it with piano, steel guitar and brushed drums (Death Comes So Slow, Another Friend). The sentiments behind Are You Happy Now and When You're Sad are uncomplicated, but not banal. At just 35 minutes, Fixed Water is unlikely to overwhelm with its intensity, just prompt the listener to turn the lights down low and stick it on again. (Jérémy & Bernard Dagnies)
Leader du défunt et regretté God machine, Robin Proper Sheppard nous revient avec un nouvel album: " Fixed water ". Pas tout à fait en solitaire, puisqu'il a reçu le concours des musiciens d'Elevate, de Ligament et d'Oil Seed Rape. Ce qui explique, sans doute pourquoi, il a intitulé ce projet: Sophia. Maintenant, ne vous attendez pas à retrouver toute la fougue et la violence manifestée sur les albums de God Machine. Vous risqueriez de connaître une grosse désillusion. Désillusion, un sentiment omniprésent dans les lyrics de Robin, qui semble ne pas encore avoir réussi à faire le deuil de son ami et compère Jimmy Fernandez, décédé d'une overdose. Mais un formidable album dont les vertus mélancoliques devraient plaire, sans aucun doute, aux inconditionnels de Smog, Palace, Sparklehorse, Red House Painters, Mazzy Star et consorts.