CW: suicidal thoughts, self-harm, abuse
Nat Ćmiel, known by their artist name yeule, is a non-binary (they/them) ambient and glitch-pop artist hailing from Singapore and based in London. They released Serotonin II back in 2019 to critical acclaim, and it was easily one of my favourites of that year. Following up such a great release can be difficult, but 2022’s Glitch Princess has already cemented itself as a contender for album of the year.
In Serotonin II, yeule reflects on the difficulties of escaping their hikikomori ways. However, the abruptness of the pandemic led them to go back to their old, isolative ways. Consequently, Glitch Princess has them question their identity and lament the events that have happened in their life. They consider the dissociation between reality and the cyber world they inhabit as their vice, bringing a harsher sound with more disturbing subject matter in their lyricism.
yeule’s thoughts are immediately contextualised with the opening track ‘My Name is Nat Ćmiel’ – a spoken word, poetic introduction of themselves over a soft synth melody. They discuss their indulgence in cocaine as a coping mechanism to escape from feelings of depression (“crushing up rocks and snorting them”). Moreover, they examine their gender identity (“I like being a boy, I like being a girl”) as well as body dysmorphia and sexual purity.
‘Electric’ is introspective and delves into yeule’s longing for human contact with someone who seemingly entered their life at a crucial moment and prevented them from taking their life. The song is produced by PC Music’s Danny L Harle (who has worked with the likes of Caroline Polacheck and Charli XCX), and has production and writing credits throughout the album. Their hazy vocals over quiet piano contrast with the explosive, desperate plea for connection in the chorus as yeule’s high-pitched, industrialised cries reverberate. It’s electrifying – pun intended.
yeule airs their anxieties in ‘Flowers are Dead’ with their yearning for the same healthy relationship they see other people have. In a similar vein, they express their insecurity about their self-harm scars in ‘Eyes’ and how they believe everyone who sees these marks will view them as unlovable. Both these tracks are eerie as yeule’s whispery croons allow the listener to engage with the deeply intimate songwriting.
Up next, ‘Perfect Blue’, titled after filmmaker Satoshi Kon’s magnum opus – and it’s quite clear why. The subject matter of both is unnerving and serves as a psychological character study. One can draw many similarities between Mima and yeule – obviously, both are singers but more importantly, they both doubt their individuality and suffer under the weight of societal expectations. The track features Japanese hip-hop artist Tohji and while he does an adequate performance, he does not bring anything notable to it.
‘Don’t Be So Hard on Your Own Beauty’ uses jangly, acoustic guitar tones paired with yeule’s vocoded singing to produce a dreamy, melodic song – easily my favourite of the album. The introduction of glimmering synths adds to the already immaculate harmonies as yeule rambles with undoubtedly their best lyrics. The use of morbid imagery, while hyperbolic and metaphorical in nature, is harrowing and adds to the narrative as yeule vents, seemingly without stopping to breathe. All this brings us to the end of the track where they finally slow down and the final sigh “open” leaves the listener to take in all they’ve heard.
Another highlight is ‘Too Dead Inside’, a dark and existential tune veiled under the guise of a euphoric dancehall track. The repetitive refrain “too dead inside” being hammered into the listener while the upbeat production plays in the background is cryptic and unsettling. This same technique occurs in ‘Bites on My Neck’ with troubling verses that discuss physical abuse, juxtaposing the uplifting breakbeat patterns.
‘Friendly Machine’ has yeule elaborating on their self-hatred, suicidal thoughts (“think of my body getting hit by a train”), and reliance on various drugs (“sixty amitriptyline”) to find themselves. The sound here is hypnotic and very minimal, allowing for more focus on the pessimistic and lethargic lyrics. The track is very distressing, more so than any other track in my opinion. The final track ‘The Things They Did for Me Out of Love’ is a five-hour ambient drone track. One wonders what the point of such a track might be; it could just be a representation of the calm, meditative, almost spiritual experience that yeule insinuates enjoying in ‘My Name is Nat Ćmiel’ – but that could be a stretch. Perhaps we will get more insight in a future interview.
To conclude, Glitch Princess details yeule’s authentic experiences and emotions with complex lyricism and impressive production. I personally find the style and aesthetic of this record very engaging, but the upsetting content might not be for everyone. The album picks up more in the middle and the later tracks are better, but the frontend is solid nonetheless. While I think Serotonin II is a better record overall, Glitch Princess’ highs are far superior.
Listen to Glitch Princess on Spotify here.
You can read more reviews from The Mancunion here.