French Electronic Label Nurtures Feminine Chaos
Away from the roar of EDM festival crowds, a movement of women making decidedly left-of-center electronic music is coalescing around a Parisian record label called Lentonia. Label founder Elise Pierre, who records and performs as Elmapi and collaborates with Matterlink on the project Video Love, is guided by the belief that women have their own way of creating.
“For me there is a way that women compose and there is a way that men compose. I can hear a difference. There is a certain kind of chaos that there is with women that’s not with men. With men, there might be chaos and freestyle, but there is constriction. With women, the constriction is different. There is a chaos with more movement. There is something more poetic,” Pierre insists in an interview while stateside for a tour with some other Lentonia artists.
Pierre, who studied experimental electroacoustic music while at university, wants to nurture this poetic chaos by changing the dynamics in how electronic music by women gets made and released. Though she started the label in 2006 to release her own music, she now sees it as a place where the voices of independent women in electronic music can be allowed to develop and be heard in their unadulterated form. “I like to work with women, personally, and in electronic music there are not a lot of women. Or, a lot of times, there is a man behind a woman on the production,” Pierre says.
By Pierre’s side is label partner Emmanuelle De Héricourt, who releases post-modern electronic pop as EDH. She elaborates on the way a women’s electronic expressions aren’t always allowed free reign: “It’s like it has to be corrected at the end. That is a problem. So we try to find women without men behind them.”
“It’s not the same with rock because there were the riot grrrls and there are a lot of bands. And you find a lot of bands with women. Like with The Slits it’s very chaotic,” Pierre explains. The musique concrete artist started making electronic music in 2004, when she retired from drumming for rock bands out of boredom. But she loves rock, especially the chaos of all-women groups like The Slits. She’d like to see that spirit applied more to the newer world of digital creativity. “Electronic music hasn’t had its Riot Grrrl movement, but maybe that can change,” she adds.
From Grimes to Maya Jane Coles, women producers, DJs and electronic music artists are thriving and getting heard in the mainstream more than ever before. Still, not all music is built for the mainstream. In the spirit of electronic music pioneers like no wave/experimental artist Ikue Mori and performance artist/electronic instrument inventor Laurie Anderson, Lentonia’s roster brings together a group of women more concerned with meticulously exploring sonic possibilities than rocking parties. Not that you couldn’t dance to a song by Video Love. In fact, she considers her sometimes challenging music pop.
“What I like to do is mix genres. There is a base of pop because we have listened to pop since we were born. But there are things that can open your ear in a different way and it’s more difficult to listen because you really have to listen. For me I do something very pop. People say it’s weird but I don’t understand that,” she says. Why not? Laurie Anderson had a UK hit single in 1981 with “O Superman.”
Héricourt and Pierre met in 2008 at a music festival where they were both performing. First, Pierre released an EDH “7, the first non-Elmapi issue from Lentonia, but, recognizing a kindred spirit, she soon persuaded her fellow artist to join her in managing the label. Neither woman really meant to become a full-fledged record label owner at first, but it seems to fulfill a creative need for both of them now. “I wanted to do something not just with myself. I wanted to start a movement,” Pierre says.
Since then, they’ve added art pop due A&E, coldwave duo Unison, US electro-iste Phoebe Jean and The Air Force, and Chilean/Parisian electropop creator Alex June. They hope to work with the Turkish synth lovers Kim Ki O in the future. Elmapi, EDH and their labelmates play small shows with other experimental artists in venues around Paris and the women-focused record store Gals Rock carries their releases.
Since Lentonia’s inception fellow feeling has been more important than finding musicians who are polished or who have a certain sound. Pierre says they seek “people who take a real risk with their music and their lives.” They met Baltimore-based Phoebe Jean when they caught her act in a Paris bar and fell in love with her as a creative force. “When we first heard Phoebe’s music it was really different from what she’s doing now. It was just weird. But there was just something strong. You can feel the artist,” Héricourt reflects. It’s the spirit an artist is creating in that matters most. ”It must be a necessity for them. It is a way of life,” Pierre adds.
From the Video Love album MON ANGE, Lentonia Records, 2011.