Challenged to describe the creative process behind the latest Princess Century release, Maya Postepski summed it up in an interview with our sister site The Electricity Club: “I love pop music and it’s really hard to write good pop songs. So, this winter I locked myself in a studio and I had nothing to do because Corona sucks and I wrote all these songs.”
“It’s more poppy than I’ve done before and there’s still elements of old school Princess Century, like my classical, nerd, Steve Reich-influenced, minimalist percussion music!”
And indeed, s u r r e n d e r does precisely that. The new album showcases both Postepski’s talent for moody minimalism as well as turning a deft hand to engaging electronic pop. For those who have followed the Princess Century story from the likes of 2013’s Lossless onwards, there’s certainly a comforting familiarity, but also a wish to experiment and to introduce new ideas. s u r r e n d e r also offers up some collaborative efforts that further expand Princess Century’s palette of sound.
The album opens strongly with the wistful ‘Still The Same’, a composition seeped in longing and frustration matched with sumptuous sequenced beats. Meanwhile, Postepski’s evocative vocal tops off a narrative revolving around themes of absence and loss (“You’re still the same/But I need you now/I need you more again”).
Describing ‘Still The Same’ as “bittersweet”, Postepski previously offered it as an example of her approach to music: “I guess that’s kind of in general the kind of music I write anyhow. There’s this element of nostalgia, elements of, yeah, a bittersweet ending. I don’t like darkness per se, like it’s a tricky word but yeah, sadness can be beautiful as well when you love somebody. You can be mourning them and still be very reflective of a beautiful memory.”
There’s more bittersweet moments lurking on ‘Desperate Love’, a composition that has a dreamy, languid quality to it with its warbling low-key synths and buzzy, insistent beats.
Obviously there’s also plenty of classic Princess Century at work on the album, including the electronic ruminations of its title track. There’s the beguiling ambience of instrumental number ‘Wanting You’ and also the simple euphoria present on ‘Pleasure Sequence’. There’s also nods to her more quirkier moments, particularly the burbling, squelchy soundscapes of ‘Cosmic Minivan’.
Meanwhile, one of the album’s collaborative efforts ‘Stupid Things’ offers up one of the album’s finest moments. There’s an airy touch here within its downbeat electronics – something which is definitely the purview of long-time friend and collaborator Fragrance. “It’s a very light-hearted summer, kind of romance song about being upset with something you might have said” comments Postepski on the song, “when you’re texting somebody; something stupid. We all send stupid messages sometimes and it’s like “Oh shit, why did I do that?” and the song is sort of about moving on and not regretting something you said and having a good time.”
The album presents a more perky approach on ‘Gravitron’, an outing which features Harris Iveson (Velvet Kills). At times, it feels like Kraftwerk meeting Ladytron (particularly through Postepski’s more grounded, flatter approach to vocals). Elsewhere, there’s an off-kilter quality on ‘Granite’, which delivers a sense of hesitancy as the album drops back into themes of loss and uncertainty summed up through heartfelt lines such as “I give my love/But I cannot find you”.
‘Love and Anarchy’ allows Postepski to explore her percussion skills on an immersive number that also employs some classic synth licks. But there’s also softer moments on s u r r e n d e r, such as the pastel washes of ‘Fantasy Channel’, a more tranquil outing which invites reflection.
As an album, s u r r e n d e r is a deeply personal affair as Postepski previously outlined. “It’s very emotional, it’s a breakup record. My partner and I split up and I left Belgium and in Berlin is where I sort of healed my wounds and had a chance to reflect on this big relationship. Because we were together for many, many years. It takes time to process the end of a big relationship and these songs are a result of that. So even though they’re poppy, they’re quite heavy in terms of subject.”
The end result is that s u r r e n d e r emerges as an elegiac album wrapped in themes of lost love and yearning, but also with a beauty at its heart.
s u r r e n d e r is out now via Paper Bag Records.
This review originally appeared on The Electricity Club.