Heidi Mortensen: Wired Stuff

In every sense, Mortenson's twisted girrl-pop is uncompromising. This is the soundtrack to Christina Aguilera's nightmares.

Heidi Mortenson

Wired Stuff

Label: Wired
US Release Date: 2006-04-04
UK Release Date: 2006-04-24

Artists you could call "uncompromising" are always curiosities at the very least. Is the term an indicator of real expectation-defying, genre-busting, true-to-self-ness, or a euphemism for "difficult, self-indulgent, and not very good"? The answer, as always, lies in the eye (and ear) of the beholder. But you can't sit on the fence, and that's where the curiosity comes in.

Wired Stuff is an uncompromising album from the uncompromising Danish-born, Berlin-based Heidi Mortenson. In terms of her approach and subject matter, you could say she's in the tradition of Laurie Anderson or Grace Jones. If Grace Jones built her own synthesizers. But Mortenson isn't sexy, either. She sings about sex -- quite often, quite graphically -- but, judging by the picture on the cover, she's not interested in playing those lyrics or her erotic, bad-girl voice for their desirability. You take or leave her art on its own terms.

As far as the listening goes, Wired Stuff is challenging. Difficult. Musically, it's a cacophony of machines, electro-pulses, and static that Mortenson just barely has under control. The sounds are reminiscent of early synth pioneers like Fad Gadget and Cabaret Voltaire, but the arrangements are pure Mortenson. There aren't many choruses. There aren't many verses, either. The backing tracks are canvases onto which Mortenson can pour her words, have her say, dare you to switch her off. "Just Shut Up And" rides on something you could describe as an "electro pulse"; "In the Streets" may be a sort of "twisted, slinky blues", and "Less and Less" fools you into thinking it's a pop song before breaking into a pounding tantrum. But these descriptions don't really do justice to the uniqueness, the weirdness, and the degree of listening difficulty.

As for her words, Mortenson makes some observations of urban life, though what she's really about is portraying sex, sexuality, and relationships in a way that's so dirty, so unabashed, so much a matter of synaptic responses as to take almost all the appeal out of them. She starts the album out stating "I don't know what the fuck is wrong with me", and by the end she doesn't really have an answer. She does tell you that she's "Workin' On It", in a near-rapping cadence that suggests Gwen Stefani on a bad acid trip. A song later, she's commanding you to "Shut up and kiss me . . . you come, / 'Cos Heidi says come", and a few songs after that to "lick my lips of desire". You sense she's being honest, too -- it's neither a joke nor a novelty, which makes it all the more difficult.

You could say that in her uncompromising way, Mortenson is more honestly just a girl than any dance-pop diva out there. Then you listen to "On the Move", and realize that Mortensen's idea of girrl-pop would give Christina Aguilera nightmares. Wired Stuff is an album that does all-too-good a job of making you feel you've met your match.

Heidi Mortenson - Jolene


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

Here comes another Kompakt Pop Ambient collection to make life just a little more bearable.

Another (extremely rough) year has come and gone, which means that the German electronic music label Kompakt gets to roll out their annual Total and Pop Ambient compilations for us all.

Keep reading... Show less

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.