Sardinian songstress Elena Steri has been on our radar here at Everything Is Noise for a while. Our premiere of “Puzzlebloom” – taken from 2021’s Choatic Energy EP – was my first direct encounter with her music, enjoyed during a season of copious musical consumption. Steri made such an impact that the EP even featured in the respective month’s The Noise Of… article. What a fitting evolution of circumstances, then, that I should be able to indulge in her latest offering and debut full-length, Soft Trigger. In Steri’s own words:
‘I made a record about embodiment – losing connection to my body and finding it, about anger, about freedom, about gaslighting, about feeling helpless, about healing, about supporting one another, about comfort, about emptiness, about feeling burnt out, about the manic feeling before that happens, about unspeakable things, the ones I won’t talk about, about happiness, about joy, about other people’s stories, about mine, and about how I decided to listen to my therapist.’
Soft Trigger is moderate in length, boasting a runtime of 41 minutes. Some tracks, such as “that’s what he thought”, flutter by with such brevity that their fleeting sounds can feel like enjoyable morsels – a sample of exquisite musical delights. Luckily for us, the resulting and unavoidable appetite for more is always satiated by the masterfully crafted music, even within these shorter snippets. Steri has garnered herself quite the reputation for intimate, storytelling-style lyrics. These are pivotal on Soft Trigger, helping build songs that maintain an elusive sweet spot wherein the attentive complexity to her songwriting culminates in an effortlessly, almost simplistic listening experience that still hooks you at your core, and I mean that in the best possible way: Elena Steri makes her hard work sound easy as hell on the ears.
It’s the little musical touches here and there that elevate the roster of Soft Trigger right to the forefront of attention, and it doesn’t take much searching to find examples: “error 404: body not found” sees a smattering of notes underpin layers of Steri’s wonderful voice with lullaby-like tones. It’s a sweetened, almost nocturnal ambience that also features on the likes of “you sat there”, which oozes charm throughout its metamorphosis from dreamy acoustic guitar and piano into sultry electronica. Flourishing transitions like these are woven into the grander sonic picture of Soft Trigger with impressive (and unsurprising) finesse, assisting songs such as “that’s what he said” or the soft xylophone of “kassiopeia” on their route to nestling cosily in the memory.
Production duties were shared between Steri herself and a handful of others (take a bow NOVAA, Jan Kerscher, Maria Basel, and tenderpeaks), each of them bringing minor nuances to the presence of their respective tracks. Those overseen by NOVAA – like “me and my headache” – tend to culminate in clear crescendos; this comes as a crisp comparison to the somewhat theatrical grandeur of “the mailman” and its orchestral work, helmed by Kerscher. Elsewhere, night returns on “relapse” for more digitised dynamics alongside featured guest tenderpeaks. It’s an enjoyable cameo, setting up NOVAA‘s inclusion on the angelically melancholic “kassiopeia” – a song of profound beauty that matches the nocturnal atmosphere found scattered across Soft Trigger but with a saddened tint to it.
In all of this, my favourite thing about Elena Steri remains her artful layering of diverse musical elements. In keeping with the plethora of themes quoted earlier from Steri’s Facebook, I challenge you to find any two songs on Soft Trigger that sound enough alike to be easily confused. You won’t. Whether serenading us with her multilingualism on “girasole” (‘sunflower’ in Italian), seeping distorted attitude on “that’s what he said”, or the quirky “no words left”, there’s little cohesion here between tracks…and I absolutely love it. Instead, what we get is 13 sonic entities possessing their own distinct identity, sewn together by Steri’s songwriting prowess and signature saccharine harmony use. They bring a modest uniformity as we venture from song to song – enough to bind them all together without forfeiting or restricting a sense of variety. This may be among the highest praise we can heap upon Steri, though far from the only praise.
Covering myriad musical ground, by the time Soft Trigger reaches the concluding, sprawling splendour of “desert song”, you feel a far cry from that opening track and are left with no choice but to be impressed by Elena Steri. Artists often experiment with stylistic choices to stay fresh and appealing, but records of this breadth of variation are truly a rarity; ones executed with such consistent quality on every track are rarer still. Personable and more than palatable, Soft Trigger is the prime musical equivalent of a balanced, nutritious meal – as delectable as it gets and bloody good for you. So, what are you waiting for?