Maria Minerva Bless EP
Looking back on it, the first few EPs on 100% Silk from Maria Minerva's ( a.k.a. Maria Jurr) seemed to apply an outsider, indie-influenced approach to house music. Noble Savage and Sacred & Profane thumped along in a weird way, but still mostly focused on bodies in motion. Bless, the critically minded Estonian's latest on the LA imprint, takes a different approach, as though someone with a background in dance decided to take a crack at twee pop.
There's always been a sense of irony in Juur's music, and as such, it's often hard to take her bizarre sound at face value. Working in a vein somewhere between pop satirists like The Residents and dark provocateurs like Throbbing Gristle, she takes cliches and extends them ad absurdum. Much like the aforementioned two artists, her music often sounds better in theory than in actual practice. But unlike either, she lacks a level of depth here, preferring to only explore the surface gloss of the music she's appropriating. On opener "Black Magick," she takes a simple sing-songy chorus about unrequited love, throws it over dissonant casiotone pads, and gradually devolves it all into a smeared cloud of paranoid obsession in which she chants, "You're a riddle/everyday's a struggle." For lack of a better way of putting it, it's as annoying as any noise song, and nearly induces the same pit-of-the-stomach feeling that's common to industrial and noise. Californian deep-house producer Lady Blacktronika takes the raw source and delivers a fairly weak "Garage Trip Mix" by tacking on loose, resampled chords and a standard-issue four-to-the-floor.
That's about as dancefloor friendly as the release gets, as the rest is much more headphone-oriented. "Space 4 U" is a crooning, almost downtempo ballad that puts her delayed voice over Moodymann-style strings and righteous '80s guitar tones. "Symbol of My Pleasure [Form of My Pain]" puts a plethora of indie dance in the mix and samples some Mark Knopfler-aping guitar playing while her voice creates a delayed blanket of sound with various coos and riffs on the title with the words "symbol of my pleasure, you're driving me insane." Finally, "Soul Searchin" rides a heavily time-stretched bongo sample into an unexpected peak of a pitched-down George Carlin delivering his "Modern Man" bit. Like the rest of the EP, it's not for everyone: it's winkingly pretentious and not particularly profound, but at the same time, it would be difficult to deny that it's not at the same time representative of a fairly unique artistic idea.
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