Ruth Mascelli: Review of the album Une nuit aux bains


Raytheon Technologies wishes you happy pride. The defense conglomerate and military contractor has a mission to “celebrate and elevate [its] LGBTQ + employees. The same goes for Axon, a manufacturer of Taser and body cameras. Uber too – did you know it has transgender and asexual ‘driver-partners’? Each June, another hawkish company launches a rainbow-colored logo in hopes of capturing that elusive pink dollar, quickly absorbing a once radical identity block in the economy of girlboss and drone pilots. by Pete Buttigieg. In a recent interview, Jeremy Atherton Lin, author of cultural history Gay bar: why we went out, lamented the way in which the mainstreaming of pride erased deviance in favor of respectability: “Some forms of sexuality are perverse. And I think there was a kind of erasure of the pervert, ”he said. “So there’s a sort of essentialism about how valid you are because your sexuality isn’t dirty, and then there’s no room for dirt and finding playmates in perversion,” you know ? “

A night at the baths, the new album by Ruth Mascelli, synth player Special Interest, is, like Gay bar, a loving evocation of sordid, deviant, and decidedly anti-mainstream queer spaces – public baths and club basements that are integral to queer history but rarely historicized in the traditional sense. Described by Mascelli as “an audio diary of adventures experienced in various public baths, dark rooms and gay clubs”, A night at the baths is an intoxicating, hazy disc of techno and ambient music that, intentionally or unintentionally, acts as a tangy tonic to super-safe, proud but pore-less pride content often found on Spotify themed playlists. Mascelli once joked that they and Alli Logout and the leader of Special Interest wanted to take a tour of the bathhouse; until that day comes, A night at the baths is presented as an emotional visit to a public bath, an immersive suite that attempts to capture the tension and thrill of the sauna.

Mascelli was making electronic music under the nickname Psychic Hotline, but their eponymous work involves more than a name change. Where Psychic Hotline’s music was a lo-fi, voice-driven minimal wave, much like Throbbing Gristle, A night at the baths is instrumental and cinematographic. The thud of the “Sauna” opener is preceded by a tense, syncopated synth sting that swings from left to right – an ostentatious welcome to the powerful and racy world of Mascelli. Throughout the album, they use the tools of immersive sound design to great effect: there is a wonderful dimension to a song like “One for the Voyeurs,” which uses resonant and breathless vocal samples, or ” Libidinal Surplus, ”an acidic techno track built around a visceral kick that sounds like it’s been recorded by cutting-edge club speakers. A night at the baths draws a fine line between dance music and sound art designed to evoke the feeling of hearing dance music, as Mascelli tacitly acknowledged: “The sound of a pop song degraded several pieces later is loser in the middle of the chorus of heavy breathing was the starting point for this project, ”they say in a statement.

But this music, so driven to try to convey the power of nightlife spaces, fails to evoke the same thrill. Split between a raucous A-side consisting of four catchy techno tracks and a B-side featuring four tracks of spectral and pulsating ambient music, the album at times feels like a museum exhibit – carefully selected fragments to represent a bigger story that never passes. never quite through. There are some defining moments in the second half of the album: the way a jarring buzzsaw synthesizer cuts through the new age meditation of closer “Missing Men”, for example, is surprising and punchy, a sharp reminder of the risk inherent in so much queer nightlife. . Unlike the meta, almost discursive approach of club music seen on recent projects like India Jordan’s For you or Doss’ 4 new hit songs-recordings about clubbing which are also perfect for clubbing-A night at the baths uses club music as a means to an end. He seeks to capture the specifics of an environment which, as it stands, is becoming more existentially threatened day by day. This in itself is a reason to be proud.


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