29 Mar Maria Minerva – Bless EP Album Review & Exploring Her Artistic Framework Via Mythology And Feminist Philosophy
100% Silk (2013)
On her website, Maria Minerva (née Juur) tells us that once she left home, it was easy to do it again. Indeed, for her, home is wherever she lays her head and finds a wifi password. This impermanence and transience hovers above her music like a ghost, belied by the Euro disco and dance pop stylings that she deploys. It is this combination, of the fugitive and the substantial, of the common and the uncommon, that gives her music both its reach and dynamism.
Born in Estonia, the tiny northeastern European state hemmed in by the cold waters of the Baltic and Russia, in 1988, Juur’s creativity is clearly shaped, in part, by her early experiences in the dying days of the Soviet Union. Growing up on a “model” Soviet-era concrete suburb, her web biography recalls heavy Russian influences, hated trolley buses, shitty TV, lycra, and, crucially, badly-produced 1990s Euro disco.
Juur’s music harnesses the melodic imagery of Euro disco, with its relentlessly vacuous tunes and dry upbeat rhythms, and subtly distorts and disconnects it before combining the result with sly vocal dissonance. In this way, her music deliberately inhabits a hinterland that is between destinations, using this to powerful artistic effect.
The stand out track on the EP, “Black Magick”, with its deadpan and detuned vocals delivered atop the aforementioned awkward melodic imagery, typifies the knowingly innocent, alienated and strangely plaintive attitude of the female protagonist present in all these songs. As this track evolves, the lyrics cleverly mutate, from an opening few lines that could be found in any mainstream pop song, via subtle shifts of stance and ground, to a scenario and meaning that is darker and more complex in nature.
MARIA MINERVA – BLESS EP ALBUM REVIEW CONTINUES BELOW
Allied to her relationship with the land of her past, there is also an undoubted arts and academic context to Maria Minerva’s music, with her background at Goldsmiths College in London. In her earlier album, Cabaret Cixous, her reference to Hélène Cixous, the feminist philosopher and author of “The Laugh of the Medusa”, sheds a light on her interest in feminist philosophy and literary criticism. This framework is perhaps also reflected in her decision to adopt the nomme de guerre Minerva (but that’s a whole other can of worms). (Editor’s note: See extended info panel below for expansion on the content in this paragraph.)
Juur is constantly moving forwards. Her career in music only began in 2011 when she signed to the renowned L.A.-based label Not Not Fun. Since then, there have been a string of releases and an extensive itinerary of tours across Europe, the USA, and Australia, including an appearance at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Now based permanently in America and in pursuit of a green card, she is involved with the esteemed UCB Theatre, whose stellar alumni includes Robin Williams and Tina Fey.
Strangely though, for an artist who has embraced the USA, it is within the European literary and philosophical traditions that Juur’s work seems to find its home. It is perhaps at odds with the philosophical outlook of her music, but I find echoes in her output of that other great émigré of forgetting, whose work in literature relied on displacement, exile and connection, Milan Kundera.
This is a great EP full of that strange but effective hybridized music the New York Times called “dance pop made sallow and creepy”. It is dark and dirty and laced with a sleepy sexiness that is made all the more disturbing because of the sweetness and innocence that also pervades. Maria Minerva is destined for greatness.