Music has a long history of being the medium for political and cultural messages. In times of social change and upheaval, music is often the first recourse to protest and the means of giving a voice to those who would normally have none. With our ever-growing digital echo-chambers though, it seems as if being heard by those who you choose address can be harder than ever, despite the illusion of increased connectivity. Music, the medium of supposed universal communication, has to become more forceful and closer to the raw emotions that create it.
Sound and visual artist Astrid Gnosis has been long channelling her responses to the world through her art. Previously part of a self-confessed artistic ‘cult’, Dying Breed, she toured Europe "creating a narrative of a secret organisation" comprising "tired young people" who put on immersive performance art shows in galleries. She has also worked in sound design creating works for short films and as her artistic practice evolves she has moved further into the sonic field. Astrid states the reason for her choice is because ‘music is a much more interactive medium, rather than performance art where there is more of a distance if you’re somewhere like a gallery’. With her music she can be more direct and upfront with her listeners: "I wanted to start literally saying more things to people. I’ve never been that comfortable saying much through music but now I want to put out an object and speak my mind".
Her debut EP ‘Agnosis’ – Greek for ‘ignorance’ – is one such statement of artistic intent, despite its title proposing the contrary. Over the course of its six tracks the EP meanders through ambient abstraction, rave-influenced techno, and industrial noise, all underpinned by Astrid’s dark sound-palette and manipulated falsetto vocals. The choice of synthesized and distorted vocals on a record that seeks to be an expression of the artist’s mind makes ‘Agnosis’ open to interpretation through its choice of sound, as well as lyric. As Astrid states, on the EP "there’s no clear political message, each track talks about a different feeling. I’m political but politics isn’t clear so no clear ideology comes through in my work". The tracks are instead a reflection of the frustration accompanying the way in which Astrid’s generation has seen their world-view change over the last couple of years, "mainly because people like myself have been too quiet".
‘Agnosis’ is also a statement on mainstream music itself. According to Astrid, the mainstream "is feeding itself and procreating out of itself, it’s a huge mass of nothingness", instead "music should be more active and show what really lies in our society and what moves us everyday". The record is a response to the idea that today "music has become really politically correct, everyone’s talking about the same stuff’, meaning that consequently "our society is always trying to hide itself". ‘Agnosis’ can be challenging to listen to at times, perhaps because of this antithetic sentiment, but Astrid seeks to "have people listen to my music and find a way of breathing, of finding a way of releasing the tension that's building up", using the music as an extension of bodily function, a channelling of energy. This release can also lead to the empowerment that Astrid feels when she listens to and performs her work, something that is evident on the heavier tracks on the EP, such as ‘Titan’.
With ‘Agnosis’ released later this month, an LP forthcoming which is set to continue the same socio-political themes, as well as live shows in the works, it’s evident that Astrid is intent on making herself heard and cutting through the noise – if not for her audience then at least for herself. "I don't really have a message for everyone but whoever hears me will hopefully understand that I'm pissed off and I'm not the only one".
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Words: Ammar Kali
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