MIF19: Queens of the Electronic Underground at The Ritz

Johnny James, Managing Editor
MIF19 Queens of the Electronic Underground at The Ritz Manchester International Festival
Photo: Tarnish Vision

20 July 2019 Tickets from £10 — Book now

Boasting one of the most forward-thinking line-ups of this year’s Manchester International Festival, Queens of the Electronic Underground brings together some of the most exciting electronic artists on the planet for an evening of pioneering sound and breath-taking visuals. Curated by Mary Ann Hobbs, the 02 Ritz event will be headlined by Jlin and Holly Herndon, featuring stellar support acts Aïsha Devi, Klara Lewis and Katie Gately. With so many innovators under one roof, we’re expecting nothing less than a six-hour journey into the future of electronic music. Here is what we’ll see along the way.

Jlin, the recording alias of Jerrilynn Patton, began producing in 2008. Initially associated with Chicago’s footwork scene, she quickly outgrew it. Like a menacing grin sonified, her debut album Dark Energy was a brutalist affair, and an unprecedented success. This freed the artist from her job as a steel mill worker and afforded her time to get weirder with album number two: 2017’s Black Origami. An overwhelming piece of musical architecture, this record comprises a barrage of rhythms and disembodied voices firing with utter precision and from every direction. The journey it maps feels like the chaotic process of an identity – Jlin’s? – taking shape. Next came a soundtrack to Wayne McGregor’s DNA-inspired dance work Autiobiography, before an intriguing track called ‘Godmother’. This, we’re told, was generated by an AI bot called Spawn, which Jlin created along with friend and long-time collaborator, Holly Herndon.

Operating at the nexus of technological evolution and musical euphoria, Holly Herndon is a similarly future-leaning producer, whose 2015 album Platform is every bit as architecturally impressive as Jlin’s Black Origami. Splicing electro-acoustic composition with Berlin techno, Platform features two disparate soundworlds: one belonging to the human, and the other to the machine. For Herndon, technology is an extension of her mind and body, and Platform seeks to meld the sounds of us with the sounds of our personal devices. Synths made from the producer’s voice, for example, are wrapped around laptop fan whirrs, smartphone bleeps and even the sound of Herndon’s internet activity (captured with an electromagnetic frequency detector). The joy with which she gradually blurs these boundaries feels like a passionately optimistic model of a new technological age. With a propensity to keep fans on their toes, it’s anyone’s guess as to what live show the San Francisco-based artist will be bringing to MIF, but whatever it is, it’ll be worth watching!

The rest of the line-up is worth watching too! Heavily influenced by her dedicated practice of meditation, Aïsha Devi’s work is visceral and ritualistic, fusing intense, warped vocal samples with sombre, industrial instrumentation. At MIF, we expect to hear much from her celebrated 2018 album DNA Feelings, which will be given extra power by Berlin-based Marcel Weber’s imagery-filled visuals. We also look forward to Klara Lewis’ set. The daughter of Wire bass player Graham Lewis, Clara is a critically-acclaimed sound sculptress, and builds her work from heavily manipulated samples and field recordings. She makes a good pairing with Katie Gately, who shapes her voice into dense, unsettling sound constructions. Gately’s unpredictable compositions waver between industrial collages and playful, abstract pop tunes, infused with an absurdist sense of humour. And finally, the architect of the event, Mary Ann Hobbs will be getting behind the MIF decks once again. If her set is anything like the surprisingly intense one she played in 2017, we’re in for a treat!

A must for any fans of future-leaning electronic music, Queens of the Electronic Underground is going to be one hell of a night. Don’t miss it!

20 July 2019 Tickets from £10 Book now

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