Music

Various Artists: 4 Women No Cry

Dan Nishimoto

4 Women No Cry establishes a new space for female musicians, one grounded in pure creativity, art for art's sake. And it's only just begun.


Various Artists

4 Women No Cry

Label: Monika
US Release Date: 2005-05-17
UK Release Date: Available as import
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4 Women No Cry is the first in a planned series of annual compilations to spotlight female musicians who operate left-of-center. The vague specification is necessary given that this latest step in demystifying the feminine arrives post-grrrl and post-Lilith, at a time when genre-/gender-specific music-making legacies have been established, yet still face the limitations, frustrations, and contradictions of a predominantly male dialectic. Subsequently, the four musicians spotlighted here are not bound to a specific sound or scene (the one common musical thread is the use of beat programming), but are rather linked by their respective abilities to transcend genre, fuse influences, and/or speak upon them consciously. Although the title 4 Women sounds off like a slogan -- as an inversion of the iconic Marley song, a reference to the equally iconic Simone, or a simple pun -- the compilation in fact approaches the question of female identity with less brass and fewer restrictions; "Woman" as sex also binds the four, but as gender offers four varying and compelling interpretations. Compiled by the adventurous Monika label, 4 Women is an encouraging step forward in providing a platform for female artists with an even more specified (or less specific?) artistic vision.

Rosario Bléfari appropriately opens 4 Women with an invitation. Incorporating all forms of technology, from industrial (bike bells) to digital (keyboard tones), the Argentinian actress, writer, and singer uses palpable sounds to bring the listener in. On "Partir y Renunciar", a tense buzzing and a tick-tocking bass guitar establish an urban landscape before cloud-like bass tones and Bléfari's plaintive voice populate the space with naturalism and humanism. Whether she arranges music instruments or uses found sounds, such as passing trains, bus engines, and church bells, Bléfari frequently returns to specific images from the city, literally crafting music for walking the streets. Her section concludes with the summary "Vidriera Chilena", an instrumental collage that pieces together a Day in the Life, much like Vertov's Man with a Movie Camera. The singer, actress, and writer chooses to observe rather than declare, thus crafting an aural landscape that any city-dweller can navigate.

If Bléfari's approach to landscaping is reflexive, then producer and videomaker Natalie 'Tusia' Beridze (aka TBA)'s is more conceptual. Her past work casting her native Georgia as a "spiritual Tokyo" and tracking the "background between such different cultural influences" resurfaces in abstract vignettes, woven seamlessly together into a textual print. Beginning with a cover of the Russian rock group's classic "Gorod", Beridze reveals a meta perspective of the past by throwing the song past its roots in the '80s -- more like 1880s. Like Tarkovsky's intentional black and green splashes of post-apocalyptic scarring, she uses heavily filtered, delayed, and whispered tones to echo in a chamber of memories, unearthed like a long-forgotten time capsule.

While the bulk of 4 Women is song-oriented, Beridze abstracts and blends her songs to create a sense of totality. Keyboards are drawn out of the cracked edges of "Gorod" like slo mo caresses, as the languid voice on "Cuet" intones in a mumbled drawl, drawing the listener in closer. An Into the Light bass guitar riff takes center stage on "Wound", though still walking through a constant opium haze. The drama of the bass is subsequently clipped away by the echo of chimes and echoed cymbal hits on "Kursaa", a track bubbling and percolating with nods to early OMD, but flattened and stabilized by Beridze deadpan. The stuttering percussive effects become a full fledged rhythm on "Hextention", which marches along in tin man tandem until it stutters and quantizes into the (a)rhythms of "Late." While the process is technically impressive, it is also highly self-conscious. On "Late", Beridze stops the track less than a minute in to record herself saying, "Record this part again", and proceeding to repeat the last riff.

Although Parisian artist Èglantine Gouzy represents another cosmopolitan aesthetic, hers is a sparseness that presents a welcome breath of relief to Beridze's sense of gravitas. Sweet Dreams synth strings stretch and twist "Eglantine Longe" with silly putty fun, before opening the charming lullaby "Nurse Song." A sense of open romance permeates Gouzy's music, as she sings, "Then you met a boy / And you feel so high / Because someone is nursing you now." However, she also grounds the work in a naturally inflected yet aloof drawl. In this manner, Gouzy consistently establishes balance. "12H12" returns the language to Gouzy's native French, but also moves forward with progressive sensibilities. Like a basement Björk, the rhythm-heavy track stomps with a steady kick pulse before pittering and scattering snare rolls about to the quickened pulse of stuttering keys and straight bell chimes. "Zone A" strolls romantically with a sporadic string swoop, but mostly to the pulse of a flat kick beat and an up and down bass riff, all while Gouzy's natural and unforced singing complements these unnatural sounds. Deep bass drums and playful flat drum hits hint at the rhythm, as "Boa" nods by at a sensual roll. Verses roll off like conversation, but Gouzy and an unlisted vocalist provide a contrasting chorus in sharp rhythms. These moments of subtlety and intimacy is truly unlike both the MTV mainstream and Pitchfork elite; it is not music conceived through the cock/clit, but through the heart and intuition.

Austrian musician Catarina Pratter closes the compilation with a sense of polish. A participant in the Red Bull Music Academy and member of 550 Rondy, her tracks fuse high concepts with patiently paced precision and a sense of gloss. "Johnny Isoläschn" establishes a visceral aesthetic with pulsing drums and a consistent loop of backwash. "Dreamin of Love" farts out two repeating tones as Pratter and a pitched-down accompanying voice take a Lynchian cruise down love's lost highway. Under the call of whoops and droning refrains, "Love" takes a clinical, mechanical approach to hook into the listener's mind. Pratter inverts pop music by infusing a different sensibility into traditional structure. Both the compilation and Pratter's set closes with a bolder affront to mainstream ethics on "Stronger Than Before", a track that snarls with bubbling subterranean bass gurgles, contrasted with spittering hi-hats squeezed out the top, and spackled in the middle with unholy voices, amorphous melodies, and long Dead Can Dance tones on acid. As a stand-alone piece, it is a middle finger, but in 4 Women it also affirms the independence of each of these artists.

The presentation of 4 Women admittedly pits content versus concept. The carnival-style apportionment of (literally) fifteen minutes to each artist is no different than the LollaLilith reductive approach, yet marketable in its bang-for-the-buck method. The approach is troublesome in the compilation's attempt to present individuals, especially when there are no connections made between the voices (Why are each of these grouped with the other three? They are a) female, and b) left-of-center. Vague enough?). That said, on a purely qualitative level, the compilation succeeds by presenting potent work from four next-to-unknown artists.

However, given the potential this compilation (and, hopefully, like-minded efforts) presents, the question arises: how to build on artist discovery? Should not the goal be artist development, not in the bastardized industry sense, but in that of cultivation? The listener cannot be content to solely remain a consumer (the industry mold), but also reciprocate music production through support and dialogue. In this sense, 4 Women does not appear to be ready to bear the complete burden because of a lack of information on pursuing support for these artists; a simple search reveals an abundance of Gouzy sound samples from this comp, but concrete information is reduced to a barebones entry on a French Friendster for Schoolmates-type site. Pratter's 'official' work within the industry lends her a relatively larger amount of search engine hits, but there is still little information, let alone a means for an international fan to offer support aside from buying Monika's product. Inversely, being released through a progressive label like Monika with a loyal support base (how many who are familiar with Barbara Morgenstern think she's 'just ok?') offers unheralded opportunities for these artists. Ideally, this exposure will establish a new base of support and encourage them to continue pursuing their art. However, this is only a beginning, and the first step is always the boldest. As Monika founder Gudrun Gut says, "Enough of all these tears. Let's tear up preconceptions instead!" 4 Women has initiated a new conversation, a necessary one. It looks like it's up to us to guide it from here.

A remix 12" is also available, featuring remixes by B.Fleischmann (Wien), Ark (Paris), Gustavo Lamas (Buenos Aires), Post Industrial Boys (Tblisi).

9

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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