Meet the Queens of the Electronic Underground
"Powerful women have a prominent place in this year’s MIF programme. For Queens of the Electronic Underground I have brought together some of my favourite female artists from across the world who will show you what the future looks like; Jlin, Holly Herndon, Aïsha Devi, Klara Lewis and Katie Gately - if you don’t know these women already, they will leave an indelible mark on your life.” Mary-Anne Hobbs
Five incredible musicians in 6 hours, let’s find out more about the pioneering musicians taking part in Queens of the Electronic Underground…
Hailing from Gary, Indiana Jlin has gone from steel mill worker to one of the most original voices in electronic music in just a few years. Transcending the boundaries of Chicago footwork – and any other kind of dance music – Jlin’s unique sound is filled with lush, weightless yet powerful drum patterns. Her albums Dark Energy and Black Origami – described by Pitchfork as “an epic treatise on where rhythm comes from and where it can go” – saw her blaze to the top EOY lists around the world in 2015 and 2017, leading to commissioned projects taking her into the worlds of contemporary dance, classical music and art. These include, among many, a score for Autobiography by Company Wayne McGregor – with which she also performs live – a composition for Kronos Quartet, Rick Owens as well as collaborations and remixes for Björk, Max Richter, Holly Herndon and Ben Frost – to name a few.
She had toured worldwide with her stunning live show, often accompanied by dancers, video and innovative light design. New collaborations and a third album loom in the future, set to take this brilliant artist further into uncharted territories.
Since her arrival in 2012, Holly Herndon has successfully mined the edges of electronic and Avant Garde pop and emerged with a dynamic and disruptive canon of her own. Holly’s third full-length album PROTO isn’t about A.I., but much of it was created in collaboration with her own A.I. ‘baby’, Spawn.
For PROTO, she assembled a contemporary ensemble of vocalists, developers, guest contributors (Jenna Sutela, Jlin, Lily Anna Haynes, Martine Syms) and an inhuman intelligence housed in a DIY souped-up gaming PC to create a record that encompasses live vocal processing and timeless folk singing, and places an emphasis on alien song craft and new forms of communion.
PROTO makes reference to what Holly refers to as the protocol era, where rapidly surfacing ideological battles over the future of A.I. protocols, centralised and decentralised internet protocols, and personal and political protocols compel us to ask ourselves who are we, what are we, what do we stand for, and what are we heading towards?
You can hear traces of Spawn throughout the album, developed in partnership with long time collaborator Mathew Dryhurst and ensemble developer Jules LaPlace, and even eavesdrop on the live training ceremonies conducted in Berlin, in which hundreds of people were gathered to teach Spawn how to identify and reinterpret unfamiliar sounds in group call-and-response singing sessions; a contemporary update on the religious gathering Holly was raised amongst in her upbringing in East Tennessee.
Just as Holly’s previous album Platform forewarned of the manipulative personal and political impacts of prying social media platforms long before popular acceptance, PROTO is a euphoric and principled statement setting the shape of things to come.
No one on this planet sounds like Aïsha Devi. Her voice is her most powerful tool in a repertoire that includes thumping beats and rave stabs, seraphic and guttural throat singing, mystical linguistics and corporeal sonics. Her music is spiritual and her live shows are transcendent experiences. A rebel and a radical alchemist who is breaking down barriers and traversing dimensions with her art. Her new album S.L.F released on 5 July, sees the pop alchemist expand on the experiments into metaphysics and rave music found in her acclaimed 2018 album ‘DNA Feelings.’
Defining a contemporary ritual practice through binaural, healing frequencies and club impact, she coalesces the sacred and the virtual, the subliminal and the cognitive in a syncretic vision. Aïsha Devi crystalizes her approach in a mesh of trap, trance and computer music woven with sonic references in flux between metal subterrain and ambient dimensions.
Aïsha Devi will be collaborating with visual artist MFO for the UK premiere of a her new AV show
MFO, aka Marcel Weber, is a visual artist who works with imagery, light and space. He has been directing and producing audiovisual performances, stage designs, video works and installations since 2001. MFO is a resident visual artist for several event series focused on the exploration of experimental music, including Berlin’s Atonal festival and Unsound festival in Krakow, Poland. He has also been commissioned for CTM, Transmediale and Mutek Montreal. Recent projects of note include collaborations with film composers such as Ben Frost, Roly Porter and Jed Kurzel, sound artists Tim Hecker, Lustmore & Biosphere and musicians including Stars of the Lid, Kara-Lis Coverdale and Liz Harris (Grouper).
American experimental electronic musician Katie Gately utilizes a plethora of computer programs to reshape her voice into dense, unsettling sound constructions. Her unpredictable compositions run from industrial collages to playful, abstract pop tunes, exhibiting an absurdist sense of humor and an ear for rhythm and melody. Raised in Brooklyn and currently based in LA, Gately earned a degree in film production and sound design from the University of Southern California but never formally trained as a musician.
In 2012, she began uploading her compositions to Soundcloud and by late 2013 she had released a self-titled 12″ EP on Public Information and an EP cassette on Blue Tapes. Following a limited lathe cut 7” single with Prayer on FET Press, Gately was invited to contribute to FatCat Records’ split series, sharing an EP with Tlaotlon. In 2015, Gately appeared on Nosaj Thing’s Fated LP and remixed Björk’s song “Family”. Her debut album Color, released on TriAngle Records in 2016, and her two prior EPs were widely acclaimed by NPR, Fact, Quietus, Stereogum, Drowned in Sound, Pop Matters and more and last year she co-produced 6 of the 11 songs on serpentwithfeet’s debut LP soil.
Klara Lewis is a critically acclaimed sound sculptress who has performed in clubs and art galleries around the world. Lewis builds her work from heavily manipulated samples and field recordings, creating a unique combination of the organic and the digital. Her debut album Ett was released by Editions Mego in 2014. Later the same year her Msuic EP was released by Swedish producer Peder Mannerfelt. Lewis’ second album Too was released in 2016 on Editions Mego to great praise.
“The way Lewis manipulates these recordings of her own surroundings is expressive and intuitive, and the music sparkles with personality despite its sparseness.” Rory Gibb, The Wire
Her live set at MUTEK last year was labelled a highlight by Resident Advisor, watch her performance from Tusk Festival in 2016 above.