SORBET is the solo project of Robocobra Quartet frontman and producer (Just Mustard, NewDad) Chris W Ryan. The project began in 2020 with the release of the ‘Life Variations’ EP, recorded while Ryan was a resident artist in SIM São Paulo via the PRS Foundation. The EP tackled the subjects of life and death in terms of not just humanity, but also of planets and environment, personal identity and sexuality, no doubt inspired by his exposure to the duality of the ultra-conservative political regime of Bolsanaro over a socially and sexually liberal Brazil.
SORBET works as a palette cleanser for Ryan and the listener alike. Under this moniker, Ryan works without the inner trappings of being a band member and contently roams genres at will, bending them around high concepts as he sees fit. On ‘This Was Paradise’, which almost shares a name with the John Milton epic, we see Ryan explore (Paradise), (Purgatory) and (Hell) through a singular perspective on personal and societal interrelations, impending planetary devastation due to climate change and the stasis the world suffered as a result of Covid-19.
Sonically, SORBET is a grand departure from the jazz-punk of Robocobra Quartet. Featuring a wealth of other players and vocalists, Ryan contributes drums and Prophet 6 while overseeing proceedings gleefully flitting from contemporary classical, spectral jazz and ambient electronica at will, as a means to make sense of the world and mankind’s effect on it. The guest appearances make for the most cohesive moments on the album – look no further than the album’s atmospheric lead single I Heard His Scythe which features backing vocals from Maija Sofia for proof.
Ryan uses moments like these to steer the apocalyptic narrative he creates elsewhere with atonal strings, crystalline, oscillating synths and discordant yet driving upright bass. It assists the listener in making sense of the story. While I Heard His Scythe can be seen as a mediation on depletion of natural resources and increasing negative impact on the planet (“I heard his scythe whoosh past my ear / it gets a little louder every year”), Arborist’s spot on Only For The Young decry’s humanity’s sins (“It’s the blackening of the sea like a starless sky”) and Michael Keating (Bleeding Heart Pigeons) laments it all on Born Purple (“And I wonder: As great sickness descends / Is there nothing we can do?”).
A forward-thinking blend of electronic and acoustic instrumentation, and a thought-provoking reflection on the devastation climate change has imposed upon our planet, This Was Paradise sees Ryan make brilliant use of his contributors and collaborators to create something truly special.