Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Matriarchy Roots - Changing Habits.

Album: Changing Habits
Artist: Matriarchy Roots
Label: Strange Therapy
Catalogue no: ST008

     1.      Where is your Toughness Now (No Forgiveness)
     2.      More More More More (Courting Insanity)
     3.      Breasts in Sight (Demand a Choice)
     4.      Lifestyle (After the Rise comes the Fall)
     5.      Monogamy Rules (Not Belonging to Anyone)
     6.      Masculine Norms (The Many Faces of Manhood)

Patriarchy has been the dominant norm for most societies over the last couple of thousand years or more, leading to the suppression of women and their sovereign rights. This has pertained until relatively recent times - after all, it was only in the 20th century that women were granted the right to vote, and even today, in the first quarter of the 21st century, there are still some countries where women are not allowed to drive, for instance, or where control of their own bodies is an ideological battleground. On a personal note, this has never sat really well with me and, certainly going by this release from Amsterdam’s Strange Therapy label, Matriarchy Roots also reckon that this situation is nonsensical.

This particular project is the industrial facet of Dimitris Doukas, who is better known as the man behind as Restive Plaggona, and here he rails against the prevailing paradigm where women are still considered second-class citizens. You would, perhaps be forgiven for thinking that here we’ll encounter bludgeoning industrial noise and metrics, but what we actually get is far more refined than that. There are elements of noise but also classic industrial rhythms, dark ambient, and experimentalism, as well as cut-ups, distorted and twisted voices, deep bass drones, and massive percussive concussions. It’s a heady mix, often reminiscent of some of the classic industrial music of the early nineties – a time when the scene was expanding in all manner of directions, and experimentation and boundary-pushing was a given.

Track 1, ‘Where is Your Toughness Now (No Forgiveness)’, brings us crunching metal and scrapes, all of which echo around a huge chamber, as if to underscore the general feeling that at the heart of sexism and misogyny is fear, and that such behaviour is all a hollow pretense. It’s an insidious fear, dressing itself up as ‘correct behaviour’, ‘the natural order’, ‘tradition’ or, most heinously, a means of justifying the situation by averring that it’s ‘ordained by religious authority’, solely derived from spurious ‘higher powers’. ‘More More More More (Courting Insanity)’ crackles into view along with cut-up voices, until massive stabs of drone, accompanied by heavy percussion, puncture through, a behemothic beast glowering and stalking. ‘Breasts in View (Demand a Choice)’ perhaps highlights the most ridiculous and prudish taboo of them all: the obsession that female breasts not be exposed in public while men can bare their chests without censure. This is essayed through a pounding backbeat and massed voices piling on top of one another, until it too takes on a monolithic life of its own, stomping indiscriminately where it will. Perhaps this is exactly what we need as a species in order to free us from such restrictive and outdated notions, a matriarchal behemoth that destroys the social ‘norms’ instilled by men and replaces them with saner and more sensible ones.

‘Lifestyle (After the Rise comes the Fall)’ is classic industrial crunch ‘n’ rhythm, yet another beast of a track that’s quite possibly my favourite on this album (if I can be allowed such a luxury). High-pitched wailing and exhalations of released steam, and the caterwaul of sirens introduce us to the penultimate track, ‘Monogamy Rules (Not Belonging to Anyone)’ reminds me of another bone of contention that men have created: the idea that women who have many sexual partners are sluts, whilst men in a similar situation are considered studs. It’s a tactic of dominance, a vessel of control over women. But, it appears that women have had enough, and this track is warning the male of the species that it’s none of their business who or how many people they have sex with.  

The final track, ‘Masculine Norms (The Many Faces of Manhood)’, begins with a horn blast before glitches and cut-ups intervene, with sound effects and voices. It’s confused and chaotic, only being held together by a deep drone that constantly fades in, and a stately drum beat. Everything else appears to be battling for dominance, in just the way men have been doing for so long, in other words a way of saying that men are men and boys will be boys – just two pernicious and lame excuses and justifications that should have gone the way of the dodo decades ago.

The medium is the message, or so said Marshall McLuhan – and in this particularly industrial medium the message is quite clear. Sexism and gender discrimination is an affront to the natural order, and that inequality between the sexes is a stain on civilised societies. One can approach this from a couple of angles: either as a direct challenge against the ‘norms’ that have prevailed for centuries or as a satirical look at men’s fragile ego-driven responses to what they see as threats – this album works both ways, but I tend to the former approach.

Leaving aside the underlying message and concentrating on the music, there’s a lot here to recommend it, especially for someone like me who has invested quite a great deal of time and energy to these genres of music (since the late eighties/early nineties). It displays its precedents eagerly, but also adds its own twist and stamps its own authority and style on the music. As the title suggests, we really do need to change our habits as a species, and while we’re doing that this would be a good soundtrack to create a new paradigm to.

Available from September 26th 2019 as a download, a 12” vinyl limited edition record, and a limited edition cassette. Pre-order on the link below:

Psymon Marshall 2019.

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