Maria Minerva Maria MinervaCabaret Cixous
Before listening to this record, there are two key references on the sleeve and in the title that form the immediate context of the album - condition the way you listen to it - and should therefore be taken into account. In the first place, both the sleeve of “Cabaret Cixous” and the video of “Luvcool” hold explicit references to visual imagery created during the eighties and early nineties to represent the concept of virtual reality; an era of technologic optimism. Now we can easily see the connection between these images and those made for the ad campaigns of the big corporations during that time. Of course, the link between corporations and science fiction was one of the key themes in cyberpunk literature, so it's easy to see why champions of hypnagogic pop like Daniel Lopatin, James Ferraro and now Estonian Maria Minerva are so attracted to this kind of imagery. The second key reference to understand “Cabaret Cixous” is the mention of French philosopher and writer Hélène Cixous, mostly known because of her work regarding the importance of body and language in relation to the ability of women to express their own identity. So science fiction and feminism are the two starting points here, something that doesn't seem a coincidence if we take into account that feminism has relatively frequently used science fiction to develop or illustrate its theories - for example in the works of writers such as Ursula K LeGuin ( “The Dispossessed”) or Margaret Atwood ( “The Handmaid's Tale”).
With those two references as the basis, on “Cabaret Cixous” Maria Minerva has achieved the same thing Hype Williams had on “One Nation”: the clearest and most spot on version of her ever more distinctive musical vision. The tracks are pop - fully aware of their abilities as desiring machines. Sensuality and sexuality are the obvious creative motors for Maria Minerva - yet, influenced by Hélène Cixous, she doesn't want to fall back on the clichés of pop music sung by women with a male audience in mind. She exploits those same clichés on key tracks, but with the purpose of criticising. On “Soo High” (the song and the video) for example, which sounds like a lo-fi version of Soft Cell and which includes an enlightening Gang Of Four quote: “the problem of pleasure, what to do for pleasure”. Maria Minerva continues to sing with the same sensual carelessness as she did on her previous releases for Not Not Fun (one of the key labels of 2011). Intimate, but not shy; like a soundtrack for a European pseudo-intellectual soft-porn film, or music for an intergalactic cabaret,
Like Laurel Halo on her EP “Hour Logic”, Maria Minerva's music includes references to several moments in the history of dance music. More specifically, a good part of “Cabaret Cixous”, with its soft synth lines and dream-like moods, would be perfect for an ambient room in the early nineties. However, several elements keep it from being a retro exercise, as her music has enough personality to elude all too obvious influences. Never the less, she uses techniques that are frequent in hypnagogic pop, such as the blurring of the sound (the vocals, drenched in echo, make the lyrics almost undecipherable) and the re-creation of sonic degradation that is the result of using analogue equipment.
It should be noted that the importance of the theoretical frame on Maria Minerva's album shouldn't scare off potential listeners. “Cabaret Cixous’” effectiveness extends beyond its conversations about feminism and music. Its sound - between pop and dance music, between the living room and the dance floor, between reality and virtual reality, between wake and sleep - shows hypnagogic pop as a field where both musical and theoretical ideas can be explored.