Industry trends and power grabs ultimately suck all our souls dry. So let’s return to the originators making the music, and support both the music and the humans making the music. Akua Grant, aka Femanyst, aka Lady Blacktronika, is one of the most naturally intuitive and imaginative producers I know. She’s also in need, and it’s way past time that the music translates into real sustenance.
The truth is that even with big media attention and tons of releases, many artists struggle to make the bills. Akua has put out a GoFundMe in order to pay her bills; you can also support her by buying music directly from her label and assisting with bookings or even talking to your local booker. Let’s talk about that music, as I’d intended to write up the newest release anyway.
You’ll want to strap in for this one because Akua has two, uh, slightly different personalities. Okay, okay, we’re in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde territory here. There’s Lady Blacktronika, Akua’s house identity, most associated with her time in San Francisco. And there’s Femanyst, the moniker she adopted in Berlin for brutal, hard, fast techno – frankly, harder, groovier, and more horror-filled than many current chart-toppers in that genre. Some people switch gears chasing trends – and that’s perfectly healthy, especially as artists are getting started. But some of us jump between styles because we honestly feel it, and moving between idioms speaks to our personality and the range of our emotions. Akua was also immersed in both scenes long before they started trending with new artists. I hear the connections between the two, maybe partly having spent time listening and getting to know Akua. But maybe you’ll hate one or the other – give them both a try. If you equally love both, well, then I bet we’ll get along.
There’s a ton of Lady Blacktronika to go explore, and like the techno, it pushes house music’s envelope, often with insistent repetition and hard edges atop the groove. It’s house with deep-running emotions, soul that can express some hurt and warmth all at once. And it has that strongly rooted feeling of the connection between house and techno, that ability to fuse machines and stripped-down funk like Detroit’s music does. (Try “The Bump What,” for an example; you could effortlessly mix this with Model 500.)
This just got pulled from the archives on SBR (Sounds Black Recordings):
Diggers will find more, a lot more, but to support Akua directly, you can grab stuff from the Lady Blacktronika Bandcamp account. And there are some gems there, like this mind-warping deep EP, beautifully raw. Seriously, that last cut feels like a comedown-free trip, and it just keeps going — straight into slow-motion polyrhythmic acid territory:
And then there’s the other side – the Dr. Jekyll in this metaphor (though maybe it’s just Dr. Jekyll at two different bpms). Dark Carousel I’ve written about before, and it’s been a way-leftfield home to horrorcore-hard techno that fuses new production ideas and experimentation with 90s rave energy and history.
Akua has another release this year in that territory. We’re talking over-the-top sounds, with legions of the damned rioting through your speakers. But I think if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll hear some of the same groove-oriented construction and approach to narrative from the other releases.
Akua has also been encouraging of a lot of the rest of us, which is why I wound up doing an EP for Dark Carousel, too – this time with Silenzo and Denizens contributing remixes. From Latin America to Europe, there’s a nice little community formed around exchanging ideas and experimenting, a lot of the sort of back and forth that’s been missing in some music lately. These proceeds also go to support Femanyst.
There are some enduring myths around the scene. There’s the idea that you can put out a lot of music and get gigs, or get on the right label and get gigs, or that you can get some big press attention and get gigs, or that the scene has now made up for the way that it has marginalized Black and brown people, queer people, women, trans and nonbinary people and put those kinds of groups in the center, or that it’s not ageist or that it supports folks through their careers. And the list goes on. I expect most CDM readers already know otherwise. Without minimizing any of the well-deserved exceptions and success stories around us – without them, things would be even more bleak – I think we’re all aware that this is the same commercial, classist, sexist, racist system we always had. I’m even glad to replace any mention of “the scene” with exclusively that awesome Detroit TV show from yesterday. This is all obvious; it’s just strange that a lot of us in the media, who typically aren’t paid a whole lot anyway, are expected to join in the gaslighting to sing for our supper.
Where I do put faith, though, is in our ability to support one another. Having more people be engaged in DJing and music creation doesn’t mean fewer resources; it means more support.
RA.868 Femanyst [RA mix interview – Mixcloud above is still working; looks like SoundCloud was taken down]