By: Geoff Shelton
This column highlights important stories, music and more from the global, female-identified and non-binary communities in music.
WE DO IT ALL
These incredible indie record labels are owned and operated by multi-hyphenate women who took their passions to share and create music to the next level. Through their great efforts to revitalize forgotten works and amplify unheard voices, they’re re-writing history and building new futures.
Launched in 2005 by music archivist/producer/designer/DJ Veronica Vasicka, Minimal Wave has recovered an entire history of recorded music that was otherwise forgotten. Veronica took crate digging to new levels with her East Village Radio show, unearthing hidden gems of early cold wave and minimal synth cassettes from around the world. After receiving numerous requests by her listeners eager to buy these super rare finds, she turned into an investigator and tracked down the folks who had created this music over 20 years ago. Having obtained the rights to re-release these tracks, she also uses her background in photography and design to create the album art for each release herself. Having single-handedly recovered an entire era of music for our current generation, she started sub-label Cititrax to release new artists who have become inspired by these sounds of the past.
This LA-based label is dedicated to releasing albums by, “forward-thinking women in music and art.” Established in 2014 by producer/vocalist/educator DJ Dot with aroster hovering around 17 artists (as of publication), the releases on Unspeakable span the gamut of genres with an emphasis on the diverse flavors of electronic music today. From the lounge-y compositions of its founder, to the noise collage breaks of Dubai-based producer ROMIZVA, Unspeakable stands as a testament to the breadth of music being produced by young female-identifying artists across the globe.
In 2016 DJ/Producer Lara Rix-Martin, aka Meemo Comma, launched this Brighton, UK based label with an exclusively female and non-binary roster. It functions currently as a digital-only distributor making a conscious choice to curb the environmental impact of CD and vinyl production. With eight riveting and diverse, individual releases and one compilation (created to raise funds for Black Lives Matter and an org helping LGBT homeless youth), Lara is gearing up for EP releases this fall from new artists Edgeslayer and ANZ.
WE PLAY IT ALL
These three records feature insanely talented creators who write, produce, sing and play every instrument on their albums (Negative Gemini even runs the record label that she releases on). All YOU have to do is listen and enjoy.
Kadhja Bonet – Childqueen (Fat Possum Records)
This transcendental second album from Kadhja Bonet is like a lucid dream on a retrofuturistic planet where the power and grace of feminine strength and spirit hold all of this psychedelic reality together. The musical Goddesses of this land have anointed their human representative to bring us their gospel. All hail the Childqueen, or as Kadhja describes it “that innermost self that you were truthfully and instinctively before the weight of the world came crashing in.” It is a pure being that emits a pure sound. In mortal form it negotiates the realities and limitations of this physical existence. It extols and laments in symphonic gestures and warm grooves. Just as you reach out to touch it, you wake up, overcome with the feeling that you’ve lived here all along. The album starts again, and Kadhja’s voice echoes the opening lines across the sunrise: “Every morning brings a chance to renew.”
Black Belt Eagle Scout – Mother of My Children (Saddle Creek)
Black Belt Eagle Scout is the music project of Katherine Paul, a self-described “radical indigenous, queer feminist” that grew up in the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community located in the North West corner of Washington State. Mother of My Children, her first LP, resonates with the specificity of this geographic location like a road trip through its austere beauty with brief but impactful visits to the sonic palette of Seattle nearby. “I don’t play music to write songs,” Paul explains in her press release, “I play music to process feelings, and sometimes what comes out of that is a song.” Written through a time of grief, the tension builds in her singer-songwriter sound through the depths of minimalism and restraint only to wallop you with the catharsis of rock and roll distortion when the healing stage of anger occasionally breaks out. These songs “are about grief and love for people,” she says, “but also about being a native person in what is the United States today.”
Negative Gemini – Bad Baby (100% Electronica)
Lindsey French’s latest EP displays new levels of mastery as she intricately weaves various styles of electronic, pop and rock music making all of them her own. With the opening angelic, drum and bass of “Infin Path” and the house-cum-rock anthem of the title track, Lindsey joy rides us through the lightness, beauty and fun of being young and in love. Then things take a turn with “You Weren’t There Anymore” as Ms. French processes the sudden murder of her sister that occurred while creating this album. The upbeat, danceable rhythm and light-hearted guitar notes in contrast to the melancholy synths and vulnerable lyrics of “You Weren’t There Anymore”, result in one of the most compelling and emotionally complex pop songs I’ve heard in years. From there things get beautifully hazy in the ethereal waves of “Skydiver” and end in the raw waltzing dirge of “My innocence”. With Bad Baby, Ms. French offers us an intimate, personal narrative that covers more ground musically and emotionally than some musicians’ entire catalog.
WE KNOW IT ALL
These books reflect an interplay of knowledge about the personal experiences, challenges and philosophies of women working in electronic music and sonic art from authors who have lived, breathed and created it themselves.
Pink Noises – Tara Rodgers
This wonderful book features 24 interviews with DJ’s, musicians and sound artists across several generations conducted by electronic music scholar Tara Rodgers from 2000 to 2010. As a musician/producer herself, Tara’s interviews were originally published on her website pinknoises.com, which Tara created to promote women in electronic music and make information about production more accessible. The book offers in-depth conversations portraying a wide array of personal histories, artistic methods and perspectives on the influence of gender, juxtaposed within themed sections such as “Time and Memory” and “Circulation and Movements.” As technology pervades all genres of music, and personal philosophies of creation benefit all artists, this book should be a standard text for all music students of every gender.
Beyond The Dance Floor – Rebekah Farrugia
Before the social network boom of the last 10 years that made female/non-binary DJ collectives like Discwoman, Siren, Tuf, and B-Side Brujas easier to find; listserves, E-zines and IRL events were the interface for an earlier generation of female DJ’s looking to connect. Rebekah’s book serves as the culmination of scholarly research done through the early oughts, documenting the imagery, perspectives and experiences of female DJ’s with specific focus on the Bay Area collectives at this time. Under the theme of the gender divide in the short history of “EDM music” Rebekah deconstructs our cultural gender biases toward technology, the negotiation of styles in performers’ public identities and the glass-ceiling politics of the production studio. BTDF serves as a vivid time capsule, showing us the roots of the beautiful, intersectional feminist bloom within dance music that is currently blossoming.
Deep Listening: A Composer’s Sound Practice – Pauline Oliveros
If you are unaware of the late, legendary Pauline Oliveros, she is the godmother of electronic and experimental music. Her brilliant work as a musician and composer is inseparable from her legacy as a teacher and philosopher. Throughout her life, Pauline developed a methodology to expand our sonic awareness that she trademarked as Deep Listening®. This book serves as an introduction to the concepts and ideas of Deep Listening and is filled with many of the practices and exercises that Pauline would lead in her classes and certification programs. The exercises include energy work, bodywork, breath exercises, vocalizing, listening and dreamwork; all focused toward expanding one’s receptivity “to the entire space/time continuum of sound.” It is a book, not only for composers and musicians, but anyone interested in expanding their consciousness.
9 To Know: Fall Edition can be found in Fall Issue 35; Purchase it here