‘Originating and penetrating, advantageous and firm’ is the first line to Zhōu Yì, the central core of the ancient Chinese text I Ching. Meaning to be open and upon receipt of divinity and further enlightenment, Qián 乾 and the 63 other units which comprise the archaic manual has profoundly influenced Eastern thought and provided the western world with spiritual guidance on art, literature, religion, and science.
Tao of I Volume 2 is the second entry in a planned eight-volume series of works which explore each of the 64 hexagons in it’s correct, King Wen order. Inspired by Jon Hassell’s ‘Fourth World’ theory, Glaswegian artist Iona Fortune fused her sound understanding of traditional Chinese instrumentation with deep synth washes to conjure the heady and brilliant 2017 debut Tao of I, winning her a support slot on Shellac’s U.K. tour of that year.
Expanding her palette of sounds with the addition of indigenous instruments such as the Zhong and Yanquin, Fortune avoids her sophomore effort feeling like a retread of her debut, but instead provides new hues and flavours to illustrate a sense of journey, or ‘Tao’. The thick rumbles of the EMS Synthi AKS cut and bristle once again, but you stumble into new territory on the nervy woodwind of closer ‘Yù 豫’, the flute-like Bawu creating skittish and troubled energy.
The zen balance of the synthetic and organic courses throughout, the meditative percussion and echoing strings on ‘Xiǎo chù 小畜’ recall Eduard Artemyev’s haunting score for the cerebral sci-fi classic Stalker, as well as Coil’s ambient explorations. The utterly exquisite ‘Tài 泰’ reaches extraordinary depths of arcane mysticism, beautiful singing Erhu strings glide and soar to sensual serenity, doing its hexagram meaning of ‘Peace’ or ‘greatness’ justice.
The world is busy, stifling, and choking itself. Spiritual nourishment has no value in the rapacious demands of the neoliberal age, and we’re sicker and alienated for it. Tao of I Volume 2 reminds you there was a world before it, a universe of curiosity you’re probably neglecting, and sincerely transports you to the ether.
Music right now is colourful, biting, stirring, and so cutting edge you feel lucky to be in the middle of it all. A significant part of this progressive wave, both musically and politically, are the amazing women seizing music away from the tired hands of the male, pale and stale, and smashing the patriarchal rock clichés with vigour.
There’s such an ocean of brilliant women creating reactionary and pioneering music, how does one do that justice by a mere 25 song playlist? This is simply the tip of the iceberg, and the artists that have sound tracked my last few years, an entirely subjective collation, for whatever my opinion is worth.
Here we have a gamut of all manner of musical awe: The icy soundscapes of Void Vision, Pleasure Venom taking a tiki torch to MAGA SS red caps, the digital venom hurled at male entitlement by Girl Pusher, the cavernous mysticism of Iona Fortune, and the kaleidoscopic alien visitation that is Spellling. I hope you enjoy as much as I did!
International Women’s Day is more than just a day, and your solidarity should consist of more than compiling a playlist. Support your local female artists, let’s ensure our venues and musical spaces are safe and free for everyone, and let’s be vigilant at removing the social hurdles and obstructions that stifle great art.
There’s still a way to go, in society, in the music scene and industry, and perhaps even IWD itself. My good friend, singer and musician Amber Watson, has this to say:
‘On the one hand I want to feel excited about IWD and celebrate my womanhood. But honestly I do that every day. It’s the parts of IWD which dosen’t see consistency throughout the year that troubles me the most, and therefore make me view the day as somewhat pointless. Promoters, bookers, venues, labels, radio managers and presenters… etc etc etc… they all hold responsibility to ensure more women are being placed on their line up, in their workforce or hosting their shows etc. Holding an annual day to say “oh look we’re on the band wagon too” isn’t enough to make change. The issues will never be fixed if we leave it to a yearly celebration and conversation. The music industry deserves diversity; creativity flourishes when you have more views and ideas added to the bucket, and shit well we all wanna hear new epic music right? Unfortunately I am not seeing huge movements in the stats across the board, and the industry is constantly disheartening to me. So IWD makes me cringe a little, yes, let’s celebrate, but how about in 2019 we ALL continue to keep that motion swinging and work towards equality like certain organisations and groups are persistent with. Don’t be a hypocrite, be a fully fledged, 24/7 ally, and reap the benefits through some fit as fuck tunes and shows.’
Head over to Noods Radio and discover all the women/female identifying residents and DJ’s being celebrated on their ‘Women of Noods’ feature series.
Check out Loud Women, a not-for-profit initiative dedicated to showcasing women artists and pushing women music journalists, with an option to submit your own editorial contributions too!
Bristol Women in Music is currently ‘under construction’ at the time of writing, but has a growing reputation of raising awareness of the issues faced by women when navigating the music industry. Also organises women focused DJ lessons!
Audiofemme is a NYC femme and non-binary run music and culture blog. Give it a follow!
Bristol’s Exchange is hosting the International Women’s Day Extravaganza, a jamboree across two days, full of live acts, drag kings and queens, and DJs til the early hours. Also screening the documentary So, Which Band is Your Boyfriend In? on the Saturday. Get a bundle ticket for £10, with proceeds going to Mind, to raise awareness of the mental health support for Women and those in the LGBTQ community.
If you miss the Saturday screening of So, Which Band is Your Boyfriend In?, here’s a list of all further screenings.
The Zion Community Art Space in Bedminster Down, Bristol, is hosting the International Women’s Day Gig Night, a roster of female acts with proceeds going to the breast feeding support group ‘Babes@Zion’. Includes Mexican food!
Give artist/singer and radio expert Amber Watson a follow. Not only did she kindly contribute to this post, but is also a talented reviewer at Tap the Feed. I had the great privilege of seeing her sing live, and her 5 minutes was the sincere highlight of the entire set.
Check out singer Annie Nash, a new and upcoming artist returning to the Bristol music scene after a hiatus. Follow her Instagram to keep updated on forthcoming releases!