DJ Red – Eyes Are Blind EP [BPC]
The currently male-dominated industry sees only a mere handful of recognised female artists currently operating in the scene. This is slowly but surely changing with the rise of female talent grappling their way through the testosterone-fuelled arenas of the the DJ booth and the studio. It’s a tall order for a culture steeped in an inherited gender inequality, from the historical masculinisation of technology, to malign sexualisations and objectifications of women, to the perennially imposed female simulacra that weakly imprints upon recorded history and still permeates our modern-day society.
Simona Calvani, aka DJ Red, left the world of fashion and design in 1997 and began her musical career as a DJ of ambient and dance music. Hailing from Rome, Italy, Calvani became enraptured by the wide-spanning techno movement of the 90s, and began to perform on the DJ circuit throughout the city. A year later saw her debut residency at the famous Goa club, enabling her to hone her craft and work with some of the most eminent artists in the scene. This residency turned into a decade-long outing with the club and is a testament to her skill and creativity as an artist. It was by this point that she turned her hand to producing and in 2006 saw her first release on Unpolite Records, run by Goa club-owner Giancarlino. Seven years later sees the now Berlin-based DJ Red with her conservative fourth release.
DJ Red presents to us here with her first release on the historically influential BPitch Control label (responsible for the formative releases of electronic titans such as Ben Klock, Apparat, Paul Kalkbrenner and Modeselektor). The EP, entitled Eyes Are Blind, runs strong narratives of obscured focus, layers of perception, and awakening, with an overarching theme on ‘sight’. The EP seems to mirror a coming-to of the artist musically and emotionally, and provides an auditory gesture to her recent move to Berlin.
The title track, Eyes Are Blind, is undoubtedly the strongest on the EP. It opens with stated intention, though struggling against rhythmic double-vision kicks in the opening. The introduction of the off-set kick shortly after (also a common mixing technique) aims to stabilise our bearings as momentary clarity is attained. We are unhinged again as distant whispers play menacingly around us, revelling in our visually impaired state; the voice becomes more prominent at the beginning of the next 8-bar set as it exercises its power over us. Words are barely intelligible, and our ambivalence toward our faceless mediator cannot be shaken. Though, one can just make out perhaps the haunting question “Do you trust me?” that appears as a refrain throughout. The arrival of the chromatic synth hook is axiomatic of that deep, minimal Cologne-Berlin sound and shifts the track into its next phase. The track dissembles as it draws to a close, leaving us to remain partially sighted in the dim light.
Look Deep is a deep and subtly sinister number dominated by the focusing and refocusing of the hi-hats. Distorted, throttling drones weave in and out, while a gritty delay marks the off-beat with steady precision. Focus is heightened upon the reaffirmation of a syncopated hat and a two-note synth hook that adds some harmonic grounding, somewhat refreshing as previous melodic material was restrained to the tuned delay and and intermittent drones. You get a great sense of fatigue as the track progresses, seemingly forever, trapped in a selectively monotonous loop of sound.
The final track on the EP is called Awake Track. The swung and ever-so delirious hook idles along, as hats are introduced to keep the momentum. We experience hints of clarity with emerging synths, only to disappear back into the crevices of the exterior; as transient as these episodes are, it does nothing but reassure us of the light at the end of the tunnel. Only when the track ‘drops’, circa 4 minutes, does it herald a concrete awakening as the sonic ether opens unto the percussive cracks and hisses, a glimpse of revelation, a coming-to…
Calvani’s take on this EP is fresh, creative, and current. Comparisons can instantly be drawn between Eyes Are Blind and her last release from 2009 Fresh Flash and demonstrates the more refined, mature artist that she has grown into. Indeed the Eyes Are Blind EP requires attentive listening, with it’s deep loops and fairly sparse melodic material, and is a classic take on contemplative, wandering German techno. It marks a new period in Calvani’s work and time in Berlin will no-doubt fuel her artistic creativity. We are steadily shedding the chains of gender stereotypes and it is only a matter of time before genders are represented equally amongst the world of electronic music.