Behind all the meticulous electric-pink customization, the debut full-length from self-identified “bimbo princess” Sarah Sommers is a return to deep, smart techno, made live the old-school way. Glammed-up synths meets stripped-down, heartfelt production. Don’t overlook this one.

Each track on Heart Core, released on digital and vinyl earlier this year, finds a chilled introspection, even when tilting toward quirkier grooves. There’s something refreshingly straightforward about it, and it’s that sense that each of these productions grew out of live numbers, with mixes that are effective enough to stand without a lot of post-production tricks or overbearing mastering. It’s the kind of production that feels like it fell through a hole from the 90s – not in a regressive way, but in that it’s liberated from a lot of our current production baggage.

It’s funny, I think it really only got me after the third listen onward – each track feels personal, and like a forgotten classic b-side at once. The music can be deep and dubby, IDM-ish, broken, or acid – and you’ll get more of that direction in her live sets. Who says modular can’t have song structure?

For her part, Sarah Sommers has made a name for herself running the club and synth circuit from her home base of Berlin, in physical venues and online both. Here she is talking to Synth Swap about machines and musical process both – for full pink immersion:

When I was last in Tokyo in 2019, I fell hard for a noodle shop in Shibuya named Ramen Kipposhi. (By complete coincidence – this really is a small world – the owner is related to an old friend of mine from New York, which I found out later.) The gimmick at Kopposhi is brightly-colored ramen soup – pink and blue. The blue doesn’t even have any flavor. I learned from my friend that the color thing was a way of attracting attention to ramen that was, frankly, perfect. It wasn’t just that the scene was competitive, it was that the essential honesty of the thing – this is chicken ramen, just prepared really well, was itself easy to miss. And it wasn’t that the other ramen was just as good in the competitive Tokyo noodle scene.

It’s sometimes hard to market something that is simple and excellent. The competition just adds noise, irrespective of its quality. And “it’s not that easy bein’ green / It seems you blend in / With so many other ordinary things.” But pink…

Artist Sarah Sommers in an electric pink Barbie-style tutu, surrounded by custom gear with all-pink designs. A ping VCS-3-inspired console, full modular rig, Perkons, Elektron gear, and more.

In this city that has been on the everything-black tack way too long, I doubt anyone can top Sarah’s pink color motif. It’s also earned – her background is as a graphic designer, and an extraordinary amount of work goes into the customization jobs. Sarah kindly shared images of that. (Studio photos by Gösta Wellmer.)

The pink gear and Barbie outfits seem as natural as the music. (I mean, I do now like my ramen in blue! Oh, but order the pink – fittingly enough, that’s the one where the ingredient that provides the color also provides the flavor. I mean, literally, that’s not a metaphor. Apologies to Sarah for hijacking her album review with my food review.)

It’s fire:

Here’s a closer look at the gear; maybe it’ll inspire some of you to take on a custom job. (Just, uh, be sure you know what you’re doing before you ruin your machine! This is the expert driver on the closed course, blah blah… I’m not sure you even want to trust me to dust yours!)

Custom pink 1010music Bluebox Eurorack Edition – Compact Digital Mixer in hot pink with silver flecks, silver pineapple knobs, held by the artist (with long pink fingernails and pink shag run in the background)
Custom pink Perkons drum machine, with all buttons, knob caps, and side panels replaced in electric pink
Inside the Erica Synths PERKONS mod - singling out switches and buttons with pink custom paint job / pink with silver specks
Erica Synths drum synth mod from back mod
Custom-designed, custom printed overlays and iterations for SynthBae mod of Elektron
Octatrack remade as Octarella, with a princess watching an alien sunset and rocket ship, all in pink and violet

Check all the videos and more on Sarah’s site, plus this full set below. And of course there’s her custom-designed record still on offer – the pink vinyl looks great in person.

Custom vinyl design for Heart Core, featuring blank-and-pink electronic heart motif on front and custom pink vinyl
Back of HeartCore album, featuring photo by Gösta Wellmer of artist in her studio