Queens of the Electronic Underground


With a title as pompous as displayed above, flattering claims about the performers and MIF’s growing international esteem enticed me enough to think I could actually withstand 6 hours of standing (I did). Largely ignoring the initial DJ set by the event curator, I start to take notice when the first live performer, Klara Lewis, showcases a kind of slow burn ambient piece that rhythmically erupts much like the companion visual display (forest fires or lava?); I can’t really say if it’s some sort of environmental ode or some thinly veiled pseudo-intellectual statement that we the consumers cannot quite grasp; it’s probably best left up to the listener. The second act, Katie Gately, deceives with its overly serene, melancholic beginning only to then evolve into an industrial sphere with deceivingly delicate vocals; appears quite reminiscent of Yoko Kanno or even Kraftwerk, albeit with more textures and fewer cyborgs.

Appearing to push the Ritz’ (in house?) lighting and smoke machine capabilities to the limit, the 3rd electrical entity, Aïsha Devi ft. MFO, steals the show with a significant increase in volume and aggression. Arguably the most technically gifted and expressive vocalist of the event, she matches this with particularly blaring synths, occasional screams and enough climaxes to throw any stable structure into disrepute. Sonically resembling the music you would hear in a trailer for an overproduced action film (Hans Zimmer?), the bombast can be a little much and even cliché at times but the entertainment value in captivating the audience certainly earns them a memorable place at least in my mind; still not sure what MFO was supposed to be.

Breaking the format of one person and machine is the fourth act, Holly Herndon, consisting of 6 vocalists and what I assume is a sound engineer. Through eerie harmonies and their innate ability to convey the soundtrack to being burned at the stake, they set the bar for the evening; it almost feels more akin to a stage musical (nativity redux?) than electronic pioneering. They muster the audience into a call and response scenario without any assistance from the mics, and consistently evolve with one segment different from the other, as if dress rehearsing for a less dorky, more circuit-board based retelling of Jesus Christ Superstar… yet bearing no real resemblance to what I just wrote at the same time. It’s a little bit disappointing that the closer Jlin serves as the unwitting anticlimax; although certainly impressive compared to most run of the mill sample saturators, it feels akin to walking into any dance club and seeing what you expect; a load of drunk people shuffling themselves about like poorly forged puppets, alien lights and all.

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Angus Rolland

Recent career decisions have compelled me into the journalistic... thing; I could list my literary influences or even debate which 3rd rate beverage has the best economic value per litre (But I won’t). Oh, in addition, I write reviews for the Independents Network.