Unveiled in February, Places We Knew is Sonny Zero, hevel, and Producer DASU’s first joint EP, a culmination of a collaboration that started in July 2022 with the song Give It Up quickly followed by Away From Here and the pre-release single Dew.
Teased from around last summer, Places We Knew was hence a quite awaited project and the least to say is that they did not betray the expectations!
Places We Knew is an immersive experience. In a way, it can feel like listening to a collection of short stories, a slice of life on the topic of love, different stages, and states, of relationships.
The Ephemeral Nature of Things
Unlike the natural evolution of a relationship, the EP starts with the denial of a relationship that is dying out with the song Afore.
Don’t tell me if it’s over girl I know
And I can’t lie
I keep getting in my bag
when the time flies
Said your not mine
But I can’t get you out
my head when the sunrise
The protagonist seems to be fighting to keep their last remnant of sanity, each passing minute reminding them that what they had together is now from the past. Sonically, the delicate guitar line feels like a reminder of the fragility of the moment. It could also be a metaphor for the brittleness of the protagonist’s mental state, on how they would do their best to hold up as they are on the verge of breaking.
This reflection on the ephemeral nature of things is also prevailing in Dew, the third song.
The places we knew
The way they’re becoming
Like morning dew
We falling to nothing
There is a considerable difference with Afore though, and it’s that while in Afore it seems that the protagonist didn’t have much of a say in the break-up, in Dew it feels that they both don’t want this relationship to end. Yet, against their own will, they are naturally parting ways.
We’re slowly dissolving to waste
And I should be mourning
But I only yearn for yesterday
Do you feel it too?
I know we’re changing
Still we try to maintain our lives
Keep rearranging like time
Will take our scars from sight
We give and take
But we’re only sustaining lies
In Dew, the protagonist is not alone in the position of denial this time, they both are. As pretty as it is to wake up to the morning dew, this dew will unfailingly dissipate as the day goes by.
Loosing yourself to Cadenza
You may have noticed a pattern by now, the first half of Places We Knew is indeed focused on stories going downhill. However, Cadenza, the second song of the EP, stands out when it comes to the narrative. Here, the protagonist is not overwhelmed by sorrow, somehow, it almost looks like they would resent their partner. To emphasize this, you can notice the use of cruder words.
“I don’t want this conversation now
Cuz I got better sh*t to do”
“U say I’m lacking in maturity
So fxxk it I guess I’m done
Cuz all my patience is running out
Its course now”
The lyrics could be interpreted as a sign of detachment, a detachment facing a situation that would repeat over and over again. Because it’s what Cadenza seems to be about actually.
Looking to the Encyclopedia Britannica, we learn that in music, the Cadenza is an “unaccompanied bravura passage introduced at or near the close of a movement of a composition and serving as a brilliant climax, particularly in solo concerti of a virtuoso character.” And that until well into the 19th Century “they were displays not only of performing skill but also of more or less spontaneous invention and imagination”.
Here, the title Cadenza could be seen as a metaphor for the escalation of verbal violence in their arguments.
“A couple nasty messages
We be saying what we don’t mean
This ain’t love babe
This is mental disorder.”
In music the Cadenzas are usually written by the composers in the sheet music, thus we can expect when they will happen, but not what they will be. It’s the same for their relationship. Just like a piece of sheet music, they always follow the same pattern, the same notes. The tension is progressively building until they reach the breaking point, the climax, the Cadenza.
One more text
And then I’m through
Feeling déjà vu
I can’t see the path no more
But we’ve been here before
By the time I’m out the door
This is an endless cycle they can’t seem to be able to break because as much as the protagonist appears to be irritated by this situation, it doesn’t look like they want this relationship to end either.
“U only want all my time u a hoarder
My time is expensive
But I know u afford it
Don’t start no fights
If ur gonna ignore me
I’m not your enemy baby
Don’t come for my head”.
But in the end, arguments – the Cadenza – seem to be at the heart of their relationship, which is a perfect transition to their music video (MV) directed by ARCHIVE.
See this shot?
A few seconds ago, the male lead entered the room, his gaze morphing from what appeared to be incomprehension, to anger and finally to worry as it fixed upon the female lead, drinking directly from the bottle you can see in the shot below.
This bottle is a bottle of Cadenza, a drink that you can see on multiple occasions in the MV in the hands of the female lead.
In reality, Cadenza is not an actual drink. The design of the bottle is a creation of DUCHAMP, who is also the creative director of the MV. One might wonder why they chose such a name for a drink, and maybe it was just because it was the title of the song but thinking about it, Cadenza would be a rather fitting name for an alcoholic beverage.
A drink that would promise a “Brilliant Climax”, that would stimulate “Invention and Imagination”. Quite a nice way to describe the exhilaration of being tipsy!
The problem is that alcohol is quite a sly substance, one that consumes you without notice. A few drinks on the weekend, after a tough day to unwind, and then one day you realize that you are addicted to this feeling. Alcoholism is sneaky, and when it’s here, one could say that in a way, it’s a part of your life that now revolves around it.
To me, it’s what the Cadenza music video is about! It’s a personal interpretation and you might have your own! Actually, KOMIYE has a different approach in her article that I invite you to read at this link. She highlighted a lot of interesting points!
While in the lyrics, arguments were at the heart of the relationship, here, well it’s still the case, but the very reason behind their arguments could be the potential alcoholism of the female lead.
In the first shot I shared, before seeing the Cadenza you see a close-up of the male lead’s face, then you see the female lead looking at him leaving the room, her face progressively retreating from the space of vision, leaving the bottle of Cadenza, alone, at the center of the shot.
This might be an over-interpretation but at this moment, it feels as if the Cadenza was a third protagonist. It’s not only about her and him, but her, him, and the Cadenza. The Cadenza is part of the relationship and is breaking them apart.
Several other elements are hinting at this in the MV.
In the introduction, before the start of the song, you can see a still frame of the female lead in the Paradise Diner. She is sipping a bottle of Cadenza, waiting for him to join her.
Later we learn that this scene in the diner was one year prior to the events in the apartment. From their conversation, it’s not clear if they were already in an established relationship back then, or if they were just starting to see each other, but one thing is for sure, and it’s that the Cadenza was already there.
After a scene of dine-and-dash spiced up by Sriracha sauce and robbery, we come back to the apartment scene, a year later.
Following this one-sided argument, the male lead takes his car where he seems to space out until he, then again, ends up in the very same diner.
The light changes as we go from silence to the lively chatter of the dinner, signifying that the protagonist snapped out of his trance.
Yet in this trip down memory lane, during which the protagonist seems to wonder how they ended up in this situation, we learn that the Cadenza was already a source of discord in those happy days.
After the scene in the diner, the male lead returns to their apartment, flowers in hand, to find the door how he left it, unlocked, his girlfriend passed out drunk in the kitchen surrounded by diverse alcohol bottles.
Overwhelmed, or maybe done, he leaves the apartment and goes back to his car but can’t seem to be able to start it. There is something wrong, he checks the pedal and founds, to his surprise, a bottle of Cadenza, haunting him to the last moment. Final shot.
In a way, whether or not the MV is a direct depiction of the lyrics, there is still this common idea of the protagonist being fed up with a pattern that would repeat endlessly. In his case, done to see his girlfriend destroying herself with alcohol. But more than this, maybe also the frustration of not being able to help more, because it’s not easy to be in the position of a helpless witness.
In keeping with this idea, in the introduction of the MV and so at the supposed beginning of the relationship, you can see him stirring the sriracha in the cup. He is in an active position.
When he visits the diner a year later, there is actually a mirroring shot, but it’s reversed. In addition to the fact that he is ordering Whisky this time (it’s worth noting we never see him drinking Cadenza), it could thus be a way to signal that he is now in a passive position.
He used to feel in control, but now he is enduring, powerless.
Outro / Intro, the fourth song, appears to be a sort of conclusion of this cycle around relationships that are going downhill.
“Stuck in silence
I’ve been losing myself
While sinking deeper in my bed
Dreaming of you
Dreaming of something
Dreaming of gasping out for air”
Here the narrator has no other choice but to face their feelings. It’s a tough process but they must learn how to live again, without their partner.
Sonically, Outro / Intro is probably the most refined song of Places We Knew. Just like in Afore, the guitar line seems to resonate with the fragile mental state of the character. There is almost a solemn feeling, but also a melancholy that could be associated with grief. And maybe that’s why the musicians are wearing veils in the live performance of the song.
But also maybe why the song is entitled Outro / Intro in the first place. Outro of a relationship that is coming to an end, Intro to a new life.
The character is at a crossroads. And coincidently – or maybe not so coincidently – Sonny Zero, hevel, and DASU, along with the musicians that are accompanying them, are performing at a literal crossroads in the video.
Following this idea of Outro / Intro, Hit Me Up, the fifth song, seems to depict the start of a relationship. A love that is just starting to bloom.
“Thinking bout you tonight
I know it’s all too quick
And we’re still delicate
Heart racing impatient”
For this song, DASU went for a dream-like vibe accentuated by the misty feel brought by the synth. It’s a nice way to highlight the infatuation of the character. While the kick could almost remind you of a racing heartbeat.
Want It Now is bouncier, cadenced by a Trap hi-hat while there is almost a sense of urgency in Sonny Zero and hevel’s flows. A perfect way to convey this urge that the character seems to feel.
“I just want it now
Nah I’m obsessed yeah
I never get enough”
The need for the other is literally an obsession, almost as if nothing existed outside of it, everything is about it.
“Wakeup missed calls I ignore it
I just wanna talk to you only”
Pillowtalk is slightly more tamed, or not about raw passion at least, but more about building trust, and in a way, being real.
“Tell me what you need
I just wanna speak
Say what’s on ur mind
baby lay it on me”
Which involves sharing doubts as well.
“She said that if she nests with me
She’d be clipping off her wings
And she would barely even fly away
She asks if the sky starts falling down
Then who would you save”
An immersive Experience
As stated in the introduction, listening to Places We Knew is indeed an immersive experience enriched by the different sensibilities and experiences brought by each artist. Each song has its own color, but the intimist vibe that Sonny Zero, hevel, and DASU developed throughout the songs brings coherence between the tracks. It’s harmonious!
You might have noticed it with the several extracts previously shared, but the lyrics greatly contribute to this immersion as well. There are for instance a lot of adverbial phrases of time that give this slice-of-life movie feel. A good example is how Cadenza starts with this verse:
“I told you baby watchu saying
Heading towards 6am u read”
You immediately dive into the story of the song, it’s easy to visualize it, it feels real.
Hence why listening to Places We Knew can be compared to the experience of discovering short stories. As the songs go by, you discover new situations and new feelings.
Are the stories related to each other? It’s open to interpretation. Personally, I would be tempted to say that no, or at least not all of them. What appears to be narrated in Cadenza doesn’t seem compatible with the story depicted in Afore for instance!
But the title of the EP is Places We Knew after all, the keyword being “We”. So maybe we can see it as two same souls, evolving in different realities/alternative universes?
In the end, there is no right or wrong answer, it’s all about perception, and how you relate to this EP. I’m curious to know how you would interpret the experience that Places We Knew is for you. So do not hesitate to share your thoughts!