The witching hour ‘refers to the time of night when creatures such as witches, demons and ghosts are thought to appear and to be at their most powerful.’ Aisha Devi’s new LP Of Matter and Spirit creates a surreal witching hour within industrial electronica. Simultaneously exploring spirituality, the interior experience and modern disconnection.
Devi’s unique social critique is part of a well established tradition. Industrial music has frequently served as a commentary on modern society. Emerging in late 1970s and early 1980s England, an era characterised by mass unemployment and the conservative ideology of the Thatcher administration. The outlook was bleak for young people who went on to harness these feelings of desperation by starting their own bands and pioneering the birth of industrial music.
The opening track ‘Adera’ begins with distorted chanting and harsh industrial beats. Hypnotic and trance inducing, the track builds with majestic energy. This mesmeric sound scape is accompanied by ethereal vocals. The track sounds like an industrial exorcism and marks the beginning of Devi’s witching hour.
Of Matter and Spirit is as much a personal commentary as it is a social one. ‘Kim and the Wheel of Life’ corresponds with the death of Devi’s grandmother. With its vast array of beats and frequencies. The track weaves in and out of this mix of sounds, with Devi perhaps reflecting on the constant influence of her grandmother throughout her life.
‘The Saviour on Spilled Blood’ the last track on the LP, featured on Devi’s previous EP Conscious Cunt. It was on this EP that Devi explored the female interior identity and spirituality. ‘Aurat’ another track featured on Conscious Cunt focuses on Pakistani feminist Kishwar Naheed featuring an Urdu/Hindi poem written by Naheed. Conscious Cunt charts Devi’s awakening as a woman within society, Of Matter and Spirit, is an extension and a transcension of these ideas, charting Devi’s spiritual awakening as part of a collective transcendental experiment.
The video for ‘Mazda’ is a visual representation of this experiment. Directed by Chinese artist Tianzhuo Chen, the video features various masked characters and iconoclastic imagery bathed in strobe lighting and neon colours. It’s as if Devi’s music has summoned these characters out to perform their nightly rituals. The collaboration is fitting, Chen’s art often features characters that are familiar, ‘they are caricatures of our celebrity filled daily lives’ Palais det Tokyo. Devi seeks to critique this sinister, outwardly focused, celebrity culture stating: ‘pop music is so connected with adverts, sentiment and the format is so close to propaganda.’ ‘Mazda’ subverts this with the track’s saccharine vocals accompanying these nightmarish images.
Complex philosophies are addressed on Of Matter and Spirit without the need for them ever to be made explicit. Devi creates a soundscape, her witching hour, an industrial electronic world where such ideas are displayed in all their uncomfortable reality. A cry for the society to embrace its collectivity and embrace its forgotten rituals. This is ritual music for the modern generation.
Art by Marta Herrera