Sunday, November 17, 2013

P057: Cabeza de Vaca – Stellar OM Source

Someone calculated that only two of the last 50 or so covers of the Wire had been devoted to women artists and in one case the main feature on Meredith Monk had note even received a cover image. Subsequently the last two issues have been female artsists, African American jazz artist Matana Roberts

The second was Laurel Halo who will appear on the show next week as the second part of our all female electronic music artists special. The first special is though on Stellar OM Source the French-born artist Christelle Gualdi on this week’s show on Cabeza de Vaca and Scanner FM.  In this sense we go from zero specials on female artsists to two in about 60, at least the same as the Wire, but still it could be better. That said we at Cabeza de Vaca have always tried to promote female artists where possible and almost always go out of the way to look.

Christelle Gualdi’s biography makes her seem more like an international citizen rather than defined by any particular country. Although French born, she moved at age 16 to Germany where she played double bass in the Konigin Katharina Stift Schulorchester. She also studied piano, violin, saxophone and more at a conservatory and has lived in several countries from the US to the Netherlands and has learned first-hand with very many important musicians. In addition to a strong musical background, she also has training in architecture.

Her interest in electronic music and improvisation lead her to self-release three albums “Ocean woman”, “Alliance” and “Crusader” which were ultimately collected on the Olde English Spelling Bee compilation “Trilogy Select”. The sound was in many ways typical of the wave of synth lead experimental works at the time, particularly Daniel Lopatin aka Oneohtrix Point Never who collaborated on the track “Rites of fusion”. In return, Gualdi designed the cover for OPN’s album “Zone’s without people”.

Her change in direction from beatless synth work-outs to rhythm comes by chance. Someone inadvertently sold her a mint-condition Roland TB-303 for €25. Over several years she adapted her sound to the machine, maintaining a live imporovised approach to composition eventually premiering her new direction with a 12” on Rush Hour’s No Label sublabel called “Image over image”.

The album “Joy One Mile” which followed was incubated during the same period, but before its final release it was turned over to Kassem Mosse for some final touches. Its ultimate reception has been exceptional. The tracks are free-flowing and dynamic, liberated from a feeling of programming and matrices, wheres Gualdi’s classical and somewhat outsider gives her sound a novel edge that dance music insiders often do not have once they are caught in the mind sert of producing strictly for the dance floor, particular set designs or even clubs.

Mosse’s work is pleasantly understated, audible but not suffocating; it is not his album after all. But his contribution was not only just behind the scenes, but extended to providing a remix of the first single.

As the album was allegedly recorded some time ago it could be reasonable to expect some more material in the near future and hopefully a few more festival appearances.

For more biographical information, here is a short interview from the Eco festival  in Madrid (in English, but subtitled).

It is also worth a quick word about Valerie Maryino aka Unicorn Hard-on. The review of her album “Weird universe” at Resident Advisor received quite an interesting discussion about her looks.

The reviewer Justin Farrar wrote: “Like a high school glamour girl who also happens to be the class bully, the New Englander cuts a figure that is both alluring and imposing. Hunched over a heap of tangled electronics, with Desperately Seeking Susan-style locks swinging across her face, she unleashes basement-party tracks that conflate electro and acid confection with harsh-noise belligerence. The result is an experience that is fabulous and sassy, yet utterly pulverizing.”

In this senses he was referring to her image rather than her beauty per se and also her live presence:

There was quite a marked response suggesting that her likes had nothing to do with a recorded record, to which Farrar responded:

Martino's persona (looks + fashion + attitude) are inextricable from her amazing music. All of it emerges from a singular sense of style, and it's a sense of style that balances glamour and toughness. This really comes out in her live show and how she carries herself as an artist. In my opinion, it's central to understanding her aesthetic.

In this sense his response is somewhat valid: it helps to know how Prince is an looks like to understand his music. If it was made by Cliff Richard, or vice versa, there would be a serious incongruity that would affect the music somehow, making it ironic or perhaps even sinister. David Bowie should also be mentioned as an artist who changed his look to change the music, and vice versa. The process is inseparable. Looks are a costume for a theatre after all. But clearly the issue here is when is it okay to mention how a woman (or man) looks? Clearly he is not saying anything misogynist to suggest “I like her music because she is hot” but at the same time is there or is there not a need to mention looks to understand her album? Do reviews of male music ever consider looks? Ben Klock is more handsome than Marcel Dettmann so his music must be better?

One of the other artists on the show, Rebekah Teasdale from the Midlands in the UK has previously worked in glamour model shoots  and the photos are on her main website. Is her beauty and modelling past a positive impact on her career? Are the erotic connotations negative? Sasha Grey of course is another artist to come from a similar background in pornography that is not always socially accepted and has potential to over shadow artistic ambitions.

A recent viral video perhaps explains why such issues are still important and why they are so thorny.

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Magnetic depths
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Universal export
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The sky pilot
Black Dirt Records
Unicorn Hard-on
Night diamond
Spectrum Spools
Ostgut ton
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Elite excel
Rvng Intl.
Mary Velo
Manhattan Project
Frozen Border
Helena Hauff
Actio Reactio
Werk Discs

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