It’s no accident that Tallinn-born Goldsmiths’ student Maria Juur took the Roman goddess of arts, crafts and weaving, not least the inventor of music, as her performance namesake: her music quarries a universe of art-world influences both sonic and bookish, all thrown together in a kind of Burroughsian audio-literary cut up. Cabaret Cixous is her second release of the year through revered LA label Not Not Fun, referencing French feminist rhetorician Helene Cixous in its title and drawing on everything from Cosey & Chris (Throbbing Gristle, Carter Tutti) and Cabaret Voltaire to lo-fi freak-folk and Estonian house, while still finding room for an excerpt from a philosophy lecture.
It’s easy to see why Not Not Fun’s Britt and Amanda Brown would be drawn to Minerva, with a musical and visual aesthetic firmly bound in their own New Age reappropriation, much akin to Amanda’s projects Pocahaunted and L.A. Vampires. (Not to mention Minerva’s unashamed profession of her Californian inspiration: February’s sold-out cassette release Tallin At Dawn featured a sample of an interview with Ariel Pink.) Another poster child for the ‘net generation’, all of Minerva’s work retains a strong sense of sorting through a surplus of information. She exists on a memory server independent of time and space, where music becomes a haphazard collage of ideas and sounds heaped over a consistent beat, a playful experimentation with an infinity mirror of layers, delays and pitch-shifts.
Throughout Cabaret Cixous, samples weave in and out of existence over liberal song construction. Having long been relegated to the archives of ’90s naff, Minerva subtly resurrects Deep Forest’s ‘Sweet Lullaby’ – or, rather, its unforgettable sample of a tribal warble from the Solomon Islands – by pitching it down and repeating it as the only consistent accompaniment to the tempo of ‘These Days’. Elsewhere, a syncopated rhythm carries an exotic first language and rogue whooping through ‘Laulan Paikse Kaes’, and the potentially bawdy nature of her atonal vocals in ‘Ruff Trade’ (“Put me on the floor / push me against the door / bang me through the wall”) dissipates within a cavernous electronic ambience.
The video clip for Cabaret Cixous‘ lead single ‘Lovecool’ is at the core of the self-referential post-modernism of contemporary America, sharing similar traits with the gallows humour of video artist Ryan Trecartin and the camp satire of ‘Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!’ in its nightmarish preoccupation with inane mass media. Trying to make sense of the mess, Minerva blurs the lines between musician, producer, performer and artist. In an era of mass consumption and shortened attention spans, she disregards the once-cardinal law of the industry album cycle in favour of a constant output, because she can no longer expect the world to remember her. What’s perhaps most extraordinary about her approach is that, in simply cat-calling “Baby, baby, baby” over the thumping groove of ‘Soo High’, Minerva makes it clear that she could probably use the most unfashionable popular culture reference, do it in earnest, and still come off brilliantly.
[Not Not Fun; August 8, 2011]