INTERNATIONAL WOMEN IN ELECTRONIC MUSIC DAY

On International Women’s Day, a showcase for those women who work in the world of electronic music…

International Women’s Day, which falls on 8th March each year, has become an opportunity to not only recognise the achievement of women throughout history, but to also raise awareness of issues such as gender equality, violence, women in science & technology and to promote the aspirations of girls and women worldwide.

On the basis that women have made a significant impact on the world of electronic music across decades, with people such as Delia Derbyshire, Daphne Oram, Bebe Barron, Wendy Carlos and Laurie Anderson being pioneers in their own distinct ways, we thought that we’d celebrate in our way with an International Women In Electronic Music Day.

It’s not always been an easy time for women in music and even today there are challenges and problems that have made the path difficult for some musicians. Lauren Maybery of Chvrches has spoken at length about the rise in misogyny, particularly in online commentary. Equally, Claire Boucher of Grimes fame has had to address issues within the world of music production (which ironically led to some misinformed writers to conclude that Boucher was flying a flag for militancy). It’s also something that Katie Stelmanis of Austra has addressed more recently.

To celebrate the contributions that women have made to electronic music, we thought it made sense to flag up some of the musicians, composers and singers that TEC has championed in the past. This selection is by no means definite and certainly isn’t designed to present a complete picture of women in electronic music, but is purely a sampling of the broad range of electronic music that women are active in.


Princess Chelsea

If there’s one particular star on the electronic music scene that’s been on the ascendant in recent years, it’s New Zealand’s Princess Chelsea. Scoring a cult hit with the indie charms of ‘The Cigarette Duet’, her 2011 album Lil’ Golden Book also demonstrated a fine talent for wistful electronica and tales of growing up in Auckland.

Her 2015 album The Great Cybernetic Depression cranked the electronic elements up to ’11’ and showcased songs that had a much more raw and personal edge. There was also a concept album approach which La Chelsea herself described as: “it represents a personal and societal depression due to social change triggered by technology.”


Hannah Peel

The varied musical career of Hannah Peel has presented a musician and composer with a particular ability to craft evocative melodies and compelling lyrics. Her most recent release Awake But Always Dreaming was assembled from the singer’s own encounter with the debilitating effects of dementia in her own family.

‘All That Matters’ combined fine electronic pop elements with a sweeping, uplifting quality to it. Released as a single, the track employs a combination of synth hooks and strings measured against Peel’s haunting vocal.


Marsheaux

Hailing from Greece, Marsheaux combine the ethereal vocal style of Sophie Sarigiannidou and Marianthi Melitsi with distinctive percussive rhythms and unashamedly electronic melodies. Their 2003 debut album E-Bay Queen and 2006 release Peekaboo demonstrated both an ability for original synthpop married with a smart choice of cover versions (such as The Lightning Seeds’ ‘Pure’ and New Order’s ‘Regret’).

Their most recent release was Ath.Lon although, arguably, it was their phenomenal 2009 album Lumineux Noir that set the bar. That album demonstrated a clear linear progression from their early material through to the bold, impulsive electronic masterpiece that few contemporaryacts have managed to emulate.


Kid Moxie

Originally from Greece, but now resident in LA, Kid Moxie is the musical moniker of Elena Charbila. Kid Moxie’s music is a blend of powerful beats, pop sweetness and haunting melodies. She’s collaborated with the likes of Twin Peaks composer Angelo Badalamenti and Clint Mansell and more recently released the excellent Perfect Shadow EP.


Susanne Sundfør

Susanne Sundfør’s musical career set a particularly high standard with the release of her 2015 album Ten Love Songs. The Norwegian musician’s glacial landscapes of electronic melancholy had a very particular personal touch and it’s small wonder that the album received critical acclaim.


Austra

Katie Stelmanis was another Canadian musician who made an impact in the world of electronic music on the back of several releases by Austra. From 2011’s Feel It Break through to the most recent album Future Politics, Stelmanis has brought to bear not only a stellar talent for tunes, but on the latest release a more pronounced commentary on politics.

The familiar bassy synth tones that Stelmanis has crafted as part of the classic Austra sound provide the foundations for ‘Utopia’. This rumination on the “collective depression”, that Stelmanis suggests is a result of city living, has strong hooks and melodies as some smart percussive frills keep the song moving along.


Grimes

The phenomenal success of her previous album Visions clearly caused something of a dilemma for Claire Boucher. The album had, in many ways, been a gear change from her earlier work in opening up the often cryptic soundscapes that had been the trademark sound of Grimes previous.

But Art Angels delivered a much more commercial vehicle for Grimes that could have swayed fans had it not been for the quality of the material on the album. Grimes goes electropop for ‘Kill V. Maim’ with its harsh percussion and insistent bass beat, sounding as if Hooky had dropped by the studio for a session. Again, it’s a fine example of the natural evolution of the Grimes sound. “I’m only a man/do what I can” intones Boucher on one of the more memorable tracks on the album.


Marina And The Diamonds

Marina Diamandis has consistently produced top tunes under the guise of Marina And The Diamonds, but also manages to switch gear on every subsequent release. The intimate Froot was an example of the talent that the Welsh musician can bring to bear.

‘Forget’ was one of Froot’s hidden gems with catchy hooks and a euphoric chorus. It’s lyrical themes of regret and moving forward utilise Marina’s smart wordplay as she regrets the times spent chasing rabbits when “I was born to be the tortoise/I was born to walk alone”.


Polly Scattergood

There’s a good combo of the ethereal with the more intense part of the electropop spectrum in dark pop chanteuse Polly Scattergood’s material. Her 2013 album Arrows received critical acclaim and Scattergood describes herself as a storyteller: “I write about emotions and moments, not all are biographical”.

More recently Scattergood lent her vocal talents to a reworked version of ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’.


Christine And The Queens

French outfit Christine And The Queens managed to make an impact in 2016 via the subtle electropop touches of album Chaleur Humaine. Founder Héloïse Letissier, who has described Christine And The Queens’ sound as “freakpop”, managed to bring a Gallic charm to electronic music alongside visually arresting choreography for live shows. Huge in France, Christine And The Queens gained a broader audience through a 2015 US tour with Marina And The Diamonds.

2016 brought us the UK release of ‘Tilted’ whose oddly effective ‘reversed’ melodies and engaging beats helped pave the way for Chaleur Humaine. ‘Tilted’ represents an approach that slips easily into accessible commercial pop, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing for a catalogue of work that features an intriguing talent at work.


Princess Century

Occasionally on percussion duties for Austra (and formerly part of TR/ST), Maya Postepski has also carved out her own singular electronic music path under the guise of Princess Century.

Dipping into “minimalist cosmic disco psychedelia” as well as the “weird Krauty EDM vibe” of recent material, there’s something oddly compelling about Postepski’s unique electronic explorations.


Lola Dutronic

The trans-global duo of Lola Dutronic have been pushing out quality electronic music since 2004. From adaptations of 60s French pop through to musings on modern pop culture, the outfit’s finest moment to date is arguably their 2015 album Lost In Translation album.

One of the strongest components of Lola Dutronic is the sultry vocals of Germany-based singer Stephanie B – here working wonders on a sequel to one of their best songs.


Goldfrapp

The collaborative duo of Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory have charted an intriguing career arc following on from debut release Felt Mountain in 2000. It included dips into ‘folktronica’ evidenced on 2008’s Seventh Tree and the synth optimism of Head First in 2010. Meanwhile, 2013’s Tales of Us was considered by some outlets as a return to form (as the phrase goes).

Forthcoming album Silver Eye has been in development for some time and appears to be cast firmly in an electronic mold.


Marnie

Better known as being part of electropop outfit Ladytron, Helen Marnie has been keen to pursue a solo path in recent years, which led to 2013’s Crystal World album.

Marnie’s distinctive vocal style leaps out from any tune that she puts her hand to. With the reveal of new song ‘Alphabet Block’, she also announced details of a follow-up to Crystal World in the shape of the forthcoming Strange Words And Weird Wars. The official stance on the album is “soul crushing synths are wonderfully accented by hook-laden choruses as Marnie boldly explores up-tempo electro dream-pop”. Which we certainly can’t argue with.


Fifi Rong

Originally hailing from Bejing, Fifi Rong’s beguiling music encompasses a broad range of influences, including electronica, dub and hip hop. It’s a sound that’s continued to captivate both the music press and fans alike since her 2013 debut ‘Over You’. Or as Fifi herself once put it: “It’s a very individual and intimate language that I speak, with unfiltered and naked feelings of my own, for those who want to join me and listen to something real.”

‘Future Never Comes’ gives her sultry vocals a cinematic soundscape. “’Future Never Comes’ is by far the most epic-sounding track I’ve made” says Fifi, “with a lyrical theme going back to my initial breakthrough of the fear for pursuing my dream and answering my calling. Making this track as a collaboration feels like taking a glorious vacation away from being immersed building my own island.”


Learn more about International Women’s Day via www.internationalwomensday.com


GRIMES Art Angels

GRIMES returns with the follow-up to her 2012 album Visions and provides challenges and rewards for the keen listener…

The success of her previous album Visions clearly caused something of a dilemma for Claire Boucher (aka Grimes). The album had, in many ways, been a gear change from her earlier work in opening up the often cryptic soundscapes that had been the trademark sound of Grimes previous.

In 2014 a new Grimes song was premiered in the form of ‘Go’ (a collaborative effort with Blood Diamonds) whose clubby beats divided opinion amongst fans. To confuse matters, an entire album’s worth of material that Boucher had recorded was deemed “too depressing” and was summarily shelved.

Prior to this, Boucher had issued a statement in 2013 expressing frustration at the casual sexism that her higher profile had suddenly attracted. This wasn’t simply reserved to online commentary, but extended to her experiences within the professional music industry. “I’m tired of men who aren’t professional or even accomplished musicians continually offering to ‘help me out’ … as if i did this by accident and i’m gonna flounder without them. or as if the fact that I’m a woman makes me incapable of using technology”.

It’s clear that these issues have had a bearing on the direction of her music, something which is evident by the lyrical content of the new album.

As with previous releases, Boucher wrote and produced the entirety of Art Angels. The task wasn’t without its challenges as Boucher had decided to introduce live instrumentation – along with learning whole new production techniques. Apparently being a fan of Taylor Swift, Boucher also used the very same tube condenser mic that Taylor Swift utilised when the pop icon recorded Red.

As with ‘Go’, the new album has divided fans and critics alike. Certainly there’s a move to embrace a much more conventional approach than on previous Grimes releases, although Visions appeared to hit that sweet spot between pop and mystery that served it so well.

The album kicks off with an overture of sorts in the form of ‘laughing and not being normal’, a concise mostly instrumental track whose strings and piano flourishes bring a touch of the classical to the album.

‘California’, with its ukulele rhythms and vocal melodies certainly shows a more direct approach than on earlier releases. It’s an indication of the approach that Boucher has taken with the adoption of more traditional instrumentation and arrangements. ‘SCREAM’ (featuring a star turn by Tawainese rapper Aristophanes) offers up an unsettling soundscape of, unsurprisingly, screams and the rapid-fire delivery of Aristophanes against a regimented percussive beat. It also marks the first track that Boucher has produced where she’s not lead vocalist.

Meanwhile, ‘Flesh without Blood’ offers up bassy rhythms and rolling percussion – a perfect foundation for Boucher’s strong yet airy vocals. Out of all the tracks on the album it perhaps straddles that middle ground between the pop sensibility of Visions and touches of a more conventional, club vibe that are dotted throughout Art Angels.

There’s a more stripped down aesthetic for ‘Belly of the Beat’ with its acoustic guitar melody and scratchy vinyl effects, but there’s an insistent melodic touch to the composition that keeps things interesting. Grimes goes electropop for ‘Kill V. Maim’ with its harsh percussion and insistent bass beat, sounding as if Hooky had dropped by the studio for a session. Again, it’s a fine example of the natural evolution of the Grimes sound. “I’m only a man/do what I can” intones Boucher on one of the more memorable tracks on the album.

It’s also probably worth pointing out at this juncture that Boucher has introduced a whole cast of alter egos for the new album, including Roccoco Basilisk, Kill V. Maim and Skreechy Bat (“who’s the metal one”). Some of these characters can be viewed in the video for ‘Flesh without Blood’ / ‘Life in the Vivid Dream’.

‘Artangels’ switches back to an electropop approach with warm synth rhythms while ‘Easily’ is another minimalist composition with its piano melody intro and pleasant vocals. ‘Pin’, meanwhile, delivers a multipurpose composition which sounds at home as a classic Grimes number as much as it would easily slide into a setlist of your club of choice.

BUY NOW

AMAZON

spacer

ITUNES

Previously released as a demo version in the earlier part of the year as a standalone track, after some mulling over its inclusion ‘Realiti’ also appears on Art Angels, albeit under a freshly recorded version (Boucher claims the original music files were lost). This version is, not surprisingly, more polished and smoother than in its original incarnation. It’s a warm, immersive track picked out by its insistent synth clarion call.

‘World Princess part II’ would, it appear, be a nod to ‘World ♡ Princess’, which appeared on the 2011 album Halfaxa. Sonically, it’s worlds away from its predecessor’s hypnotic vocal trills and instead offers up more of a harder electronic edge with pointed lyrics about “the things you try to take”.

There’s other occasional nods to the Grimes of old, such as the incoherent vocal embellishments and esoteric electronic effects evident on ‘Life in the Vivid Dream’. ‘Venus Fly’, meanwhile, is one of the gems on Art Angels, a collaboration with US artist Janelle Monáe, the track is a tight slice of percussive pop and clipped vocals that bring to mind elements of K-Pop.

As an album, Art Angels has certainly invited debate amongst her fans, some of whom feel that Grimes has wandered too far from the quirk and charm of the soundscapes that inhabited the likes of Halfaxa – not to mention the dark pop of Visions. These arguments are not without merit, although Art Angels offers up rewards for the music enthusiast willing to mine for them.


Art Angels is released on 4AD and is available from Amazon

http://www.grimesmusic.com
https://soundcloud.com/actuallygrimes/tracks
https://www.facebook.com/actuallygrimes
https://twitter.com/Grimezsz

This article originally appeared on the Wavegirl site.

GRIMES Live in London

Venus In Fleurs


The steady upward path of GRIMES continues, paved by the recent success of the Visions album, which also marked the signing of the artist to the 4AD label.

Transcribing the dense, complex soundscapes that form the Grimes sound would have been more of a challenge in the hands of anyone other than musician/producer Claire Boucher. And there’s something about the live renditions of tracks such as ‘Be A Body’, ‘Nightmusic’ and ‘Oblivion’ that breath new life into the tunes. The songs become infectious bass heavy dance-pop numbers. This is electronic dance music done right.

The evening kicked off with support from fellow Canadian artist Majical Cloudz (who collaborated with Grimes for the track ‘Nightmusic’. The moody soundscapes of Majical Cloudz are certainly effective, but at times artist Devon Welsh just looks unsure what to do with himself on stage. Second support Becoming Real offers more up tempo fare with a seamless mix set of electronic dance.

The arrival of Grimes to the stage was overshadowed by unfortunate events. The theft of equipment in Manchester the previous week cast some doubts on the final tour dates. A swift replacement of new gear solved that particular issue, although a few minor technical issues cropped up during the performance as Claire struggled to acclimatise herself to the new equipment: “I can’t always remember where I’ve put my samples…”.

Early Grimes gigs saw Miss Boucher alone on stage, which most fans would probably have been happy with. But some thought has obviously gone into enhancing the visual aspect of the live Grimes experience, hence the projections of anime clips and abstract footage, the addition of Emily the pole dancer and Vin Diesel on light sabres! It gave the event a sense of theatre and helped to encourage a party atmosphere, which the enthusiastic crowd eagerly assisted with.

There’s loud cheers to greet songs such as ‘Vanessa’ and ‘Oblivion’, with the latter tune sounding a lot stronger live with its beefier bass rhythm and emphatic melody getting the crowd moving.

‘Genesis’, unsurprisingly, gets the biggest cheers of the evening and the entire venue is bopping along to the Kraftwerk-ian slice of dream pop that has been instrumental in establishing Grimes as a household name.

The encore features ‘Phone Sex’, the collaborative number between Grimes and Blood Diamonds. Despite technical problems cutting the song off, Miss Boucher battles on, fixes things up and then finishes the set off in style.

The next question is where GRIMES goes next. There’s talk of becoming a producer for other artists as a full time option, although the next GRIMES album is already under discussion and is described by Miss Boucher as her “anime-industrial album”.


http://www.grimesmusic.com

Text and photos by Paul Browne
6th September 2012

GRIMES – Visions

Without change something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens…

It’s been a very interesting period for the electronic music enthusiast with electropop gaining a very prominent profile via some of the new artists emerging. The term ‘Renaissance Period’ has been bandied about and few could argue that the current healthy scene shows little sign of slowing down as more and more artists and bands emerge to the attention of a wider audience.
Enter GRIMES, aka Claire Boucher – a Canadian artist who employs several disciplines, including art, performance and music and pulling in musical influences featuring everything from K-pop to glitch along the way.

Claire is quoted as describing her work thus: “The only means through which I can be fully expressive. It is both an ethereal escape from, and a violent embrace of, my experience. The creative process is a quest for the ultimate sensual, mystical and cathartic experience and the vehicle for my psychic purging”.

Grimes had already been established with two separate releases in 2010, Halfaxa and the Dune-influenced Geidi Primes, that gathered together a collection of brooding electronica overlaid by Boucher’s distinctive soprano vocals. The result was an ethereal, other-worldly quality that often lent an hypnotic element to the music. The experiments are not necessarily always successful, but songs such as ‘Dream Fortress’ and ‘My Sister Says The Saddest Things’ captured a unique painful beauty that’s difficult to draw comparisons to, although she’s often mentioned in the same breath as Lykke Li and Austra (and there is also a hint of early Virginia Astley).

The striking thing about Grimes is the way tunes emerge from these often complicated and bizarrely constructed songs (Boucher clearly doesn’t have much time for verse, chorus, middle-eight when writing her material). There’s a percussive quality to a lot of the work that drives the songs, building up an infectious rhythm that gets feet tapping even when you’re still waiting for the melody to appear.

So then to Visions, the new album from Grimes which also marks her debut for the 4AD label. Commenting on the creation of her latest release, Miss Boucher says “Visions was conceived in a period of self-imposed cloistering during which time I did not see daylight.”

BUY NOW

‘Genesis’ is the track getting attention lately through radio play and it’s easily one of the standout tracks of the album. A Kraftwerkian melody provides the base for Boucher’s spacious vocals while once again a clever percussive rhythm keeps things moving along at a good pace. ‘Oblivion’ is in similar territory but is a much earthier affair with a bassy synth melody and a clever layering of vocals that produces an accessible slice of Gothic Electropop. ‘Oblivion’ also has a few ‘old school’ touches to surprise the listener.

There’s more apparent nods to Kraftwerk on ‘Eight’ with the rhythm of the song built up from a repetitive vocoder element. And this track illustrates how Boucher is prepared to try more unusual ideas to build a song. It’s this experimental approach that throws up such pleasant surprises and more than a few challenges.

Boucher also finds time to collaborate with fellow Canadian artists on the Visions album. Doldrums do the honours on the pneumatic melodies of ‘Colour of Moonlight (Antiochus)’ which is another fine example of the way Boucher’s treated vocals can weave captivating elements into her music.

Electronica artist Majical Cloudz joins Miss Claire on the evocative ‘Nightmusic’ where subtle synth rhythms are seamlessly merged with darker, moodier melodies.

As an album, Visions is a joy and a challenge that will reward the determined listener looking for subtler colours in the electronic music tapestry.


http://www.grimesmusic.com
http://www.myspace.com/boucherville

Text by Paul Browne
20th February 2012