?Alos & Xabier Iriondo

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?Alos & Xabier Iriondo | Coscienza di sé
Sangue Disken/Cheap Satanism Records (LP/DL)

On their latest EP, Coscienza di sé, Italian guitarist Xabier Iriondo (Afterhours) and singer/musician ?Alos (Stefania Pedretti of OvO) take Emma Goldman‘s feminist text/lyrics and run the necessary miles. This is a follow-up to a 7″ released way back in 2011, and it’s something quite different indeed, they may call it ‘cyberpunk’ but this is what my ears are hearing…

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First of all, this is an EP, as in five tracks, all six minutes or under, for a total of about twenty minutes of listening pleasure. It opens with the thirty second intro, Apertura, and it’s a electro-rock surge where I think they repeat “holy sh*t”. The vocal treatment is like a frazzle filter that’s completely distorted into the mix, and into the next track, Gelosia. Locked in a world between a chant and a post-techno headbanger this would serve perfectly as a backdrop to the Come to Daddy-era of Aphex Twin. It’s just that sinister.

Though the lyrics may be Italian, the vocal delivery is much more encoded right into the synths than any other form. They recall moments by artists like Motor, Atari Teenage Riot and some residual detritus from the likes on TVT Records – but this is not trying as hard to be slippery slick and patent leather tight. It’s got a punk attitude, with a Fluxus underbelly. They offer entrancing beats on Autoaffermazione that are one part spitting feminist and the other shrouded in a hazy lounge burlesque. This lady is pissed off and she is taking no prisoners today. It’s as though she is trying to coax her daughter from a stripper pole without much result. There’s a sexist schism, an inner struggle that breaks from certain traditions. The title means assertiveness after all. Heavy in concept, drivingly funky in delivery.

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The album is dedicated to the plight of Emma Goldman, American writer and philosopher of Russian-Lithuanian origins, also portrayed on the cover pic, with artwork by Stra. The lyrics of the five tracks refer to her words, revolutionary for having conveyed freedom of thought, anarchy and feminism from the end of the Nineteenth century to 1940, the year of her death, but unfortunately “necessary” even in our present. “We started recording the songs in 2018, when feminism was regaining life. Everything, then, has reachead a sort of maturity. Many people, including many young feminists, don’t even know who Emma Goldman is. That’s why her figure must be absolutely valued. The concepts shouted by Goldman a hundred years ago have never been so current. We believe that in this historical moment it’s even more important that musicians return to talk about politics”.

The anxious heartbeat opening of the title track serves as an organ grinder of sorts, aided and abetted by the viscous vocoded vocal which sounds as if she’s repeating “not me, not me, not me….” It’s an alarm call for sure, though this manifesto slices through in a most tribal style. I’m reminded of a live performance for which I will not forget by the legendary Nina Hagen (circa 1987) where it felt as though she was channeling demons (it could have also been the mescaline that kicked in half way through). And their nearest to a post-rock song structure on Amore Libero brings us to the closing moments. It’s a wash of colorful layers of rock low-end, synthesized chords in the back, and a crooning vocal that comes off like it could have easily been recorded in the early 80s. These are the grandchildren of the likes of The Lords of the New Church or Strawberry Switchblade, redux. That said, this record has guts and grit, and goes for an acquired taste underground gusto not often attempted these days. Props.

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