15 Apr 2014 — Evelyn Malinowski
What do you get when you combine environmental activism, post-hipster politics, and Canadian neo-pop archetypes? Petra Glynt.
The Toronto artist otherwise known as Alexandra Mackenzie has branched off into her own universe after letting it brew while collaborating as a drummer in numerous bands, such as Pachamama and Dentata. In watching "Sour Paradise," we're teased with the same few images of people wildly celebrating the beat of the song, adorned with Value Village treasures which help create a tribal, art-explosion uniform. Mackenzie has been very outspoken against calling her music "tribal," and states that, in doing so, we are perpetuating eurocentric colonizer's jargon. While an interesting debate emerges in reasserting that Mackenzie does in fact partake in tribalism both aesthetically and culturally - urban hipsterism, rallying to protest tar sands export from Alberta, opting to have images of axes and masked men playing empty buckets in a ceremonial stance - it is opportune to explore other qualifying adjectives nonetheless. Internet psychedlia is the first alternative that comes to mind, and in spending a few minutes browsing Mackenzie's art, aforementioned universe begins to take shape.
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As for Mackenzie's alchemy with experimental music and politics about better treatment of the environment, let's look at what she told Noisey for the video's premiere:
The song is open but also militant at the same time, militant in its urgency to see change in the world. It tries to express the disconnect between our relationship to the land we live on and asks us to question the validity of the system our civilization has been built upon and where it's taking us. The song is meant to empower in circumstances that can be disempowering. We didn't want to come across as too preachy or confrontational while maintaining an artful/magical approach to video making. Amidst all the inequality in the world and damage that is being done to our planet, people need positivity. We need to celebrate our likeness and freedoms we all share, that no one can take away from us- that is the power of music, art, and dance. The video has something ominous, but it is intended to be a celebration of the power of community.
Somehow the aesthetic of trash-clothes suits contending the message that we are not being as good to the earth as we could be, and that we need to empower each other in order to change that. It's similar to the whole post-apocalptic, garbage windstorm style and reminds me of The Police's video for "Synchronicity II." Come to think of it, the message of "Synchronicity II" is also similar to Mackenzie's, as it aggressively takes us from descriptions of suburban routine and spins us back out into recalling mysticism, unknown things in nature, and, in a sense, the Other.
Yes, Mackenzie sort of looks like Grimes, and the end of "Sour Paradise" does have some residual Grimes-like fairy vocal loops; realistically, when you really look at or listen to her, she doesn't look nor sound like anyone else. Her almost too strong, alto/mezzo singing propels us into some place between several worlds she identifies with, a non-category nexus of reference and political awareness. Musically, "Sour Paradise" is fantastic – it's progressive, griddy, moderately melodic, completely danceable, and somewhat freaky. All in all, Mackenzie has a well-rehearsed and genuine style that is starting to receive attention, and by no surprise. Check out this 2012 footage of her jamming on the drums at Toronto's Southern Oracle event, and this video of her impressively performing her track "Out To Lunch" at the Wavelength Music Festival.
"Sour Paradise" is off of Petra Glynt's Of This Land EP, and you can get it here.