‘Machine Woman’ sounds like an oxymoron at first; an unholy matrimony of living tissue and cold steel, neither human, nor robot. Actually, it’s more than any spineless human or soulless droid could ever be, a tool working towards some purpose built from parts of both origins. Transhumanism ties in well with the attitude of Salford’s krautrock collective, GNOD, who convey their embrace of creative evolution through their own label, Tesla Tapes. Anastasia Vtorova releases as Machine Woman for the first time on here, previously working under her Female Band moniker to push lo-fi atmospherics. Vtorova’s multidisciplinary approach is evident as distant, downtrodden world cinema samples surface throughout the murky, experimental electronica on Pink Silk – ‘pink’ and ‘silk’ being two words that belong on the opposite magnetic pole to wherever Pink Silk resides.
Stream: Machine Woman – Pink Silk (Tesla Tapes)
“Machines are like people, but,” Vtorova explains via the proxy of sampled murmurs on “Machines”, though the revelation seems to become increasingly tenuous over the course of the minute, worn down by the involuntary shivers of metallic chimes. The faint buzz of the voice’s source – tape that acts as a conveyer belt for sound – is repelled by a doppler shift of ambience that creates uneasy tension in the mind of the listener, the sort of paranoid awareness that spooks unwilling trespassers. The very same voice is heard on “What did he say to you?”, this time in conversation. It repeats the title question throughout, though Vtorova splices it in a way that changes its tone implicitly – sometimes the question is framed inquisitively or ambiguously, other times it’s equivocal or challenging. Often the dialogue is unintelligible, and the moments you can make out aren’t always revealing as the second voice repeats the question aloud. As the track draws to a close, it’s as if the two voices become one, though their motives remain unclear. Regardless, what stands out most is Vtorova’s talent at drawing a narrative from the scarcest of sources.
The rest of the tape traverses marginally more familiar grounds, as the title track opens the release with what sounds like an extended snare drum death rattle. Grating sandpaper rhythms shuffle into the foreground and each hit of the drum propels an agonising whoosh that gradually intensifies. “USSR” carries a similar sense of dread and impending doom, the march of a black heartbeat distancing all else in the track as its title and the Slavic snippet at the start really substantiate a Gulag atmosphere. On the other hand, “Sneinton Market” conjures a different image altogether, referring to a local market. We’re not so sure about rural Nottinghamshire’s experimental electronic scene so the connection remains elusive, however the mechanical sparks and noises in the track bring to mind a montage of an industrial factory process rather than farm produce stalls. It’s as straightforward as Vtorova gets on the record, though despite occasional deviations in the synthetic clinks and clanks it doesn’t push in any particular direction – akin to a tool just going through the motions, perhaps. Vtorova’s work with consistent aesthetics impresses, as she’s able to imbue her sounds with intrigue, wasting little opportunity with barebones material. Pink Silk is one for fans of dystopian worlds as well as steampunk, and fascinates as much as it intimidates.
Stream: Machine Woman – USSR (Tesla Tapes)
Words by Tayyab Amin