Album Review: Sofia Dragt – ISA

Sofia Dragt is a Utrecht, Netherlands-based artist we discovered on the blog through her tracks Islands and Temporary Gold. The latter features on her new album, ISA, a collection of songs inspired by and created in Ísafjördur, Iceland where Sofia lived as artist in residence.

By Graeme Smith

Feature photo by Melissa Scharroo

What strikes you instantly about ISA is its sense of place. The sweeping piano melody of Isa’s Turning sets the scene, light but robust, giving a sense of landscape unfolding before your eyes. Sofia adds delicate vocalisations, so sparse that you could easily miss them if you weren’t listening closely. It’s such a wonderful way to start the album’s journey.

The intro blends seamlessly into the aforementioned Temporary Gold. It’s here that we get the full effect of both Sofia’s charismatic vocals and her ability to tell a story through lyrics. It’s her ability to combine the scenery around her with her emotional state that really drew me to Sofia’s music and it goes double when the track is placed among its siblings.

Track three is Vegg. It shows a more pensive side to Sofia’s sound with a melancholic melody played on keys accompanied by long, mournful strings. Outside of music, Sofia is a documentary film maker and Vegg certainly has a sense of the cinematic about it, especially when it hits its full electronic stride.

Up Until Five has a similarly cinematic quality, one that leans towards the retro in its composition. There’s a real sense of the personal in Sofia’s lyrics and the listener is left with the sense that this is the dark night of her soul, a period of reflection brought about by isolation and a change of scene. It’s a strong mid-album showing.

Twilight Cafe introduces ambient sounds alongside electronic textures that reminded me of 23AM-era Robert Miles. More up-tempo dance elements swirl with chilled ones to great effect. It’s a wonderful vignette that leads into the album’s final sung track The Train Goes On. A suitably locomotive composition drives the nostalgic story of the lyrics forward. Sofia’s vocals feel almost conspiratorial, like she is leaning into the mic in order to share a secret with us.

The album is rounded off by its instrumental coda Isa’s Reflection. Sofia returns to the piano in this slow and deliberate piece, one that suggests closing doors and opening windows. As its last few notes fade out, you really feel as if you’ve spent some time in Ísafjördur alongside Sofia. It’s a journey I’ll certainly be returning to. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

You can listen to the whole of ISA below.