New Forms of Electronic Music; Judaism, Manga, Spirituality, and Transhumanism by Meemo Comma.
On one hand, Meemo Comma present themselves through an ethereal halo that surrounds their new album, ‘Neon Genesis: Soul into Matter²’ (Planet Mu, 2021) which reflects on vague, abstract, flexible concepts and, at moments, advocates for feelings impossible to define.
On the other hand, Meemo Comma offers direct answers, defined and concrete as a stone. It shows an attitude that is usually common in those people belonging to the sectors of the music industry that have suffered a historical invisibility. Perhaps that is the same reason why the Meemo Comma works the concept of the album with detailed perfectionism.
Without a doubt, ‘Neon Genesis: Soul into Matter²’ is a confection of multiple layers of meaning, enveloping you in its mystery with a subtlety and beauty that only things that await an intellectual effort to be discovered have.
Meemo Comma is the alias of Brighton born Lara Rix-Martin who previously recorded as part of the Heterotic duo on Planet Mu. They started Objects Limited featuring under represented genders in 2016. On 19th March 2021, ‘Neon Genesis: Soul into Matter²’ was realeased; her fourth album as Meemo Comma. In this article, we focus on the album and talk to the artist:
Lara Rix-Martin explains the concepts and themes that inform their new album:
‘Judaism is filled with many tales and teachings that prevail in science fiction to this day – whether consciously or not. Sci-fi is the genre most equipped to explore the immensity and challenges of human experience. Something that Judaism has also been attempting for over three thousand years.’
As an example Nineties manga, especially ‘Evangelion’, ‘Full Metal Alchemist’ plus Kenji Kawai’s soundtrack to ‘Ghost In The Shell’, borrow heavily from narratives and symbolism present in Jewish mysticism or the ‘Kabbalah’, repurposing these old myths to explore new ways to consider humanities destiny. Lara says:
“I watched ˈGhost in the Shellˈ when I was about 14 and it was so striking, and as such the soundtrack has guided me to explore my connection to my Jewish identity. I really loved the idea of having a story in mind and I have been reading the Talmud this year, discovering a deeper love for Jewish stories and teachings. There’s some really beautiful ideas in the Kabbalah, the idea that the first human was non gendered and just this form, made up from the qualities of HaShem (God) who contracted ‘Tzimtzum’ their form, using their Ein Sof or eternal light create ‘Adam Kadmon’, were a central, hopeful inspiration to this album”.
The new Meemo Comma album ‘Neon Genesis: Soul into Matter²’ is a soundtrack to an imaginary anime that makes these links even more explicit, taking Kabbalistic text and Jewish prayer and feeding them into the very modern sound of twinkling ambient synths, breakbeats, cranking industrial incidental noise, full of strange wonder and drama, quite beautiful at times; soft synths transmuted into choirs of the seraphim to make a soundtrack, at others there are moments of occulted dance floor rapture. Lara playfully subheads her album with a mission statement, which mixes the influence of manga and the concepts of Judaism “In the year 5781 humanity is ever closer to becoming a singular consciousness. A team of humans are forming an android, Adam Kadmon (CODENAME: UNIT KADMON). First, humans have to gain higher consciousness guided by the Sefirot.”
While you don’t have to know about these influences it stands true that the feeling of the record is an irreverent love letter to the way grand myths are birthed into the future through new forms, retaining their beauty and elegance.
In the following section, we talk to Lara Rix-Martin about her work, process, the music industry, discrimination and spiritualism:
First of all, congratulations for an extremely beautiful piece of work.
1.Who made the artwork for the cover and what is the meaning if any?
I always picture myself on my album covers. It´s wasn´t a conscious thing to always be on the cover but when I discussed it with other people, they said you know, it´s good to have yourself on the cover since it´s not too common to have a non binary female in the music industry and it´s good that you are putting yourself out there visually. Which is an interesting point of view. I have always sort of imagine how the cover was going to be as I was creating the album. Since I think of myself while I´m making the music, I guess it makes sense for me to be on the album cover. I was really driven by a poster I had in my room when I was a teenager of Ghost In The Shell. It was a 90s poster but I got in the 2000s that was sort of the visualization for me and obviously added my own concept. I went to Ebay and bought the wig and glasses, it was really cheap but it doesn´t look cheap, which is good (laughs).
2.No, it doesn´t. Actually this relates to another question I had for you; obviously the whole concept of the album is very narrative and there are references to a Ghost in The Shell. Now you just told me that you think of yourself while making the music and I was wondering: do you think of characters for the music?
Yes, I do think about characters. For example, “Tohu & Tikun”, in track number 8, they mean “chaos and order” but, apart from thinking about this two concepts , I was imagining them as characters. But, I wasn´t designing an in detail story, it was more like an emotional feeling. Like if I was offering a jist of the story.
3.Your grandfather was a mason and your family has jewish heritage. Let´s talk about what that means to your own identity (as an artist) because obviously your jewish heritage had an influence on this album.
Yeah, definitely, although my dad is jewish he isn´t practising anymore, which was a difficult thing for him emotionally. I guess he felt… not ostracise as such, but … as my mum is not jewish I guess we kind of push him out of the community. And then, I myself went back to the community in my own way, because my mum is not jewish I can´t be orthodox but I can be what Americans call “reformed” and here in the UK we call the “liberal”. I think in terms of how this drives my music, what I think is that all music, I don´t care who says what is always in some level identity driven. If you are a black person coming from Detroit, that will be part of your music identity, whether It is conscious or not. It´s just that I made a conscious decision of speaking about it but all music is identity driven, if you are a boring white guy you may be making boring white guy music (laughs)
4. I asked that because, well, I am not a religious person but I do think that human beings are generally spiritual and they do need the hope of believing in something, you know, bigger than yourself. I feel that for me that could be music or I project that feeling on music. So I thought that this album could be… you trying to rescue the things you already known about your identity and religion and give to that your own… spiritual essence. The attempt to personalise your own religion, maybe?
Yeah, definitely! I think in the discussion of music and spirituality… for example, when you go to a rave is kind of a religious experience. We know there is a part of the brain, I think it´s just behind the prefrontal cortex, where languages and reason function.That part is where, when stimulated, gives people the feel of spirituality and we know that raves can give you that feeling.
5. Yeah! Can I ask you, how do you know that? I mean about the neurological connection of the brain and those types of feelings?
I´m a little bit of a geek, I like finding out this stuff. It was actually on a BBC documentary (God on Brain)
6. Your daughter came up with your artistic name Meemo Comma, how? Was she naming you?
She is really good at coming up with different names. She said one day: “there is a ghost that lives on our stairs and her name in meemo comma” She didnt think too much about it. It just came out.
7. The voices from your tracks, are they samples or recordings of your own voice?
I don´t sing. I couldnt put myself in the music in that way, I would be overcritical. I wouldn´t be able to hear it without hearing my voice and I couldn´t get over that. So I use some synths that sound like voices and manipulated them and I also use samples extracted from youtube videos.
8. I love the mysticism of the album and it would absolutely work perfectly as the soundtrack for a movie or anime like Ghost in The Shell –Have you worked doing soundtracks before or would you like to do that?
Yeah, I would love to do it. No one ever asked me to do it… maybe with this album (laughs) the only thing that worries me is that if I work doing soundtracks, I would be working for a client and I wouldnt have the freedom I have now.
9. I read an article about women in the electronic music industry. These women producers being interviewed and they all agreed that the electronic music scene is still quite sexist. However, the article – written by a man – concluded by saying that he still considered that the lack of women in this field is due to the lack of interest of women in electronic music. Personally, I disagree completely. I would like to know your opinion on this.
I don´t think there is a lack of interest. The thing is… for a young age girls are not encourage to have those interests. Even if you have a very particular interest – and I have several very specific interests when I was young ̶ you are always perceived as kind of weird… or geeky… you can´t be the standard popular american girl if you are into weird and wonderful specific things. So, it comes down to a lot of socialization when you are young… but I do think there are a lot of women interested in electronic music. When we go to raves, clubs… I specially remember that, during the 2000s, there were more women into dubstep than men that I knew of.
10. For me, the problem is that I see that in scenes that are more underground probably there is the same number of men and women producing. I definitely know a lot of women who are producers and into electronic music. But then, as you go up into more mainstream environments, if we talk about gigs in popular locals or big festivals, it does feel that the number of women, non binary or people of colour are reduced in a crazy way. And I do know that the majority of people from this organizations, the people withholding the power to make the decisions, are white and male.
Definitely! A couple of years ago I posted on Twitter that I see so many young white boys that just started their careers and already have a lot of media coverage, already have representation, managers, tour people… and it pisses me off so much… how did they already got that?
11. Yeah, I know. Recently I made a mix with a friend, we sent it to two radios. One accepted it and the other one said that “this wasn´t the style they were looking for” Honestly, I dont thing they listened to it, since there are different genres on the mix and that´s a pretty vague reason to give. The thing that fascinated me it was that both persons who talk to us where young white males running well-known international radios that they obviously didn´t started. Who put you there? Are you honestly the most qualified person?
Yes, it is exactly that! I actually did like a thread saying: “if you don´t have representation keep posting on this” and we actually got many people involved and there were so many women… I really good friend of mine who is such a good DJ and she has a monthly show on Rinse and she still hasn´t got a manager. She is so good, why aren´t women asked to be represented? I feel like we are the only people who can support each other. You need a community to support you because the industry is not.
12. By the way, what does it mean the 2 in the word “matter” of the title?
(laughs) I just like the look of it. Some people read it as “’Neon Genesis: Soul into Matter Square” which sound cool.
13. How long did it take you to make this album?
The conception of the album only took me maybe four weeks maximun but the concept of the album is what takes me a long time. I remember I did my album “Sleepmoss” and that came out in October, and a few months later I thought I had an idea that I would like to explore… at the same time, I was rewatching a lot of anime and I thought “it would be so good to do the soundtrack for an anime”. I normally start creating some pieces of tracks but they do not make sense to me until I have the concept of the album clear… that takes months but once is decided, I´m very fast.
Thank you to Lara Rix-Martin aka Meemo Comma for this interview.
Teresa Ferreiro trabaja en dirección y gestión cultural y gestión de medios. Es escritora y editora en Ruido de Fondo. Doctora en Bellas Artes y Estudios de Género (Universidad de Vigo) y es artista de cómic, ilustradora y DJ.
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