In The West Against the People, the accompanying essay to Mary Ocher’s latest same-titled LP, Ocher explores the notion of 'the West' as an ideological entity. Within her brief socio-political analysis 'the West' is a term which signifies the 'first world': the lands of the white European and his descendants. A territory which, once threatened by industrialisation’s machines, now directs the same fears towards the immigrant. A place intent on building walls, and where financial exploitation "is an ongoing war of the strong against the weaker." Aptly reflecting the troubling state of today’s global political climate, the poignancy of Ocher’s words cannot be understated, and provide the perfect preface to a record of intricately crafted ideas.
Woven into the fabric of her sprawling sounds, Ocher’s political musings emerge both in subtle abstract nuances and more blatant manifestations. It is in its rock-inspired moments where The West Against the People sounds most defiant. Accompanied by drumming duo Your Government, Ocher’s voice roars and rages in tracks such as My Executioner and Authority’s Hold. Both expressing anger against forces of societal power, it is the former which cuts right to the heart of Ocher’s written work. Sonically translating the notion that xenophobia arises not from the "threat of the newcomer" but from the "insecurites and paranoia ingrained in the host society itself," Ocher repeatedly growls, “how do you deconstruct fear?”
Whilst emotively powerful throughout, it is in the album’s softer touches where Ocher is particularly mesmerising. Appearing twice on the album, To the Light feels undeniably pivotal. Ocher’s once warped bubbling vocals ring clear in the track’s second stripped-back piano version. Beautifully haunting in its simplicity, a symbol of hope and clarity turns into emptiness as Ocher echoes, “They run to the light and find nothing.” Arms is equally as stirring, its music video further heightening Ocher’s stark lyricism. Standing beside armed soldiers in various everyday settings in her former homeland of Israel, Ocher sings on top of softly stuttering synths, “No one will mess with us, we’re holding arms/Travelling on the bus, we’re holding arms.” Highlighting the prevalence of weapons in everyday reality, Ocher exposes the ironic invisibility of violence in a militarised society.
Impressive in its wide-reaching instrumentals, The West Against the People is masterful in its ease at switching between contrasting tones and styles. Whether it be the reverberating drones of Firstling Pt. 2, the layering of abstracted wailing vocals over staccato synths in The Irrevocable Temple of Knowledge or the digital inflections of Felix Kubin collaboration Wulkania, each sound feels an essential component. Charged with political insight and experimental craftsmanship, The West Against the People is both a complex and demanding record, and one which is difficult to forget.
Words: Georgia Tobin