Electro Feminisms: Monika Enterprise
After talking about about the means of production in electronic music, today I want to spotlight something the Berlin label Monika Enterprise. Founded by a woman, Gudrun Gut, Monika bucks the usual trend of women-as-exception, with a strong female roster and a regular spotlight on new artists in its 4 Women No Cry, which brings together four women from four different countries.
The general vibe of the label is quirky electropop, indietronica, IDM, and minimal techno. You get a sense of some of the humour behind it when you realise that the titular Monika was in fact a suicidal fish of Gudrun Gut's...Obviously!
Monika's best known artist is probably Barbara Morgenstern, whose 2006 single "The Operator" got a bit of buzz in Pitchfork-type circles. Morgenstern combines programmed drums and synths with her own piano and vocals in German to create a distinctive sound. I don't speak German and can't find any translations of the lyrics, but from the video and the English chorus I gather the subject of "The Operator" is technology. "Reset my options" strikes me as a fairly feminist urge in a technologised world.
While The Grass Is Greener (the album "The Operator" is taken from) is a wonderful album, my favourite song of hers is "Aus Heiterem Himmel," from 2003's Nichts Muss.
Label-head Gudrun Gut is no slouch in the studio herself, with a quarter century of work in Berlin's music scene, though it wasn't until 2007 that she finally got around to putting out a full record, titled fittingly, I Put A Record On . "Move Me" is the first track on that album, and it seems to replay male minimal techno artists like The Field's microsample-and-delay technique only to displace it into something rather more off-kilter. As a production strategy, it feels like a parodic imitation in order to voice something quite different to The Field's anaethesised loops (personally I listen to Kompakt records on planes, the steady pulse seems to fit the air-conditioned not-space of travel and airports really well).
The sample is, I think, a marching band or accordion, but it's really hard to tell with only fragments used. And then, over the top, Gudrun herself gives a half-sung, half-spoken vocal: "I fall to pieces like a Patsy Cline song." It's cryptic, but this song feels dysphoric to me, sick. Articulating her dis-ease, the chorus demands, off-key, "move me." And it does.
There's plenty of other great artists on Monika, so if you like these songs, do check them out.
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