'"Why are there so few women active in the electronic music scene?" - each one of us has heard this question a thousand times... Here is the answer: It's not our number, it's about how and if we are recognized!'
Despite the ever-growing scrutiny of the oppressive structures upheld in the dance music mainstream, it undeniably remains an intrinsically male-dominated arena. Whether it be in the line-ups of nightclubs and festivals around the globe, the coverage of DJs and producers in large-scale music publications, or the listings of popular record labels, female-identifying artists continue to be grossly underrepresented. Tied up with the ongoing fight to secure an increase in opportunities for women in the industry, is the need to recognise their pioneering work in electronic sounds, dispelling the myth that the current male command over club culture reflects the demographic reality of dance music production. In celebration of International Women's Day, we have therefore accumulated a list of a handful of innovative female artists, both of the past and present, whose work has broken new ground and continues to shape the landscape of digital sounds today. For a more extensive overview of women's vital contribution to electronic music, make sure to check out our Spotify playlist below.
Laurie Spiegel’s influence on the technological advancements of computer music in New York during the 1970s and 80s cannot be underestimated. An employee at Bell Labs and developer of compositional software Music Mouse, Spiegel’s research and output laid crucial foundations for the creation of new relationships between art and technology. The Expanding Universe, Spiegel’s seminal debut release, is a truly masterful display of this electronic experimentation. Serene, blissful, transcendental - Spiegel’s spellbinding synths lift listeners into outer realms and distant horizons.
An early player in the Chicago club game, DJ Jana Rush emerged in 1996 with The Armageddon, a split 12" with DJ Deeon on prolific ghetto house label Dance Mania. Just 15 at the time, Rush was billed as ‘The Youngest Female DJ.’ Returning from a lengthy hiatus, last year marked Rush's comeback with the arrival of her debut album Pariah on Objects Limited. A seductive record of stylishly slick footwork, its release has placed the Chicago native firmly back on the map.
Responsible for some of the most innovative electronic sounds to emerge from Greece in the 1980s, Lena Platonos's unique brand of experimental synth-pop can be traced through an extensive back catalogue of long play releases. Platonos's enchanting vocals feature heavily throughout, layered over gentle drum patterns, analogue synth inflections and touches of classical piano. Now more accessible through multiple Dark Entries reissues, Platonos's surrealist dreamlike soundscapes are definitely worth exploring.
Jin Hi Kim
Jin Hi Kim is most notable for her work with the komungo (or geomungo), a traditional Korean stringed instrument of the zither family. Co-designing the komungo's first ever electric model, Kim has wowed audiences with her live multimedia performances which have also featured the 'komungobot', her self-created virtual robotic instrument. A true pioneer in experimental electronic instrumentation, her effortless fusion of classic and modern musical structures is a remarkable feat.
Active in the mid-1990s, Akilah Bryant is another export of Chicago's early clubbing scene. Her three EPs, two of which were released on Miss Djax's label Djax-Up-Beats, offer bouncing party techno injected with jacking house and acid flavours. Infectious and club-ready, Bryant's four to the floor outings are just as suitable for dancefloors in 2018 as they were twenty years ago.
Spanning ghetto house, electro and ambient minimalism, Andrea Parker's discography is the product of an artist with expansive form and taste. This eclecticism is reflected in the output of her record label Touchin' Base, which features releases from the likes of DJ Assault, Sync 24 and Arovane. For anyone needing an introduction, compilation Here's One I Made Earlier provides a wonderful snapshot into Parker's world, encapsulating her astonishing versatility as a producer.
Austrian producer and DJ Susanne Kirchmayr, aka Electric Indigo, has always made her political voice heard. Through the creation of female:pressure, an online network and database of female, transgender and non-binary producers and visual artists, Kirchmayr has worked to provide a platform which strengthens female communication and recognition in the industry. Her musical output is equally as impressive, traversing techno, house and acid, and including numerous releases on her own imprint indigo:inc. Make sure to watch out for 511593, her upcoming LP due out on Imbalance Computer Music later this month.
It is difficult to box Suzi Analogue's sound into a specific genre or category. Founder of the now dissolved Klipmode collective and label Never Normal Records. Analogue's music switches from hazy hip-hop and R&B inspired beats to hi-octane dance cuts. Particularly noteworthy is her three-volume instrumental tape series ZONEZ, which incorporates glitchy electronics and frenzied percussion in what she terms an 'audio moodboard'.
Dance music from Latin America and its diaspora is the focus of Ecuadorian-Lithuanian DJ and culutral activist Sara Skolnick's, aka Riobamba's, sound. A regular in the New York club circuit, the Brooklyn-based selector's fierce DJ sets are deliciously rhythmic affairs, comprised of the hottest reggaeton and dembow around. Recently founding APOCALIPSIS, a label and creative agency intent on sharing "urbano storytelling for a ni aquí/ni allá [neither from here/nor there] creation of place", Riobamba is a name to watch in 2018.
A staple on NTS radio, Cõvco's hi-energy shows exhibit some seriously hot selection skills. Covering everything from footwork, R&B, grime, jungle and techno, her ability to switch up the pace at any time is to be admired. Catching her in action behind the decks would therefore be highly recommended, either at the opening party of Ben UFO's XOYO residency in April or NTS's upcoming 7th birthday celebration at Electrowerkz.
Words: Georgia Tobin