Evita Manji, “Spandrel?”
By James Gui · February 07, 2023

Greek electronic musician Evita Manji sculpts their music like a glassblower, melting down grains of sound before warping them into a delicate structure that feels like it could shatter at any moment. Their meticulous sound design practice is an influence from their late partner SOPHIE, whose handcrafted waveforms and avoidance of sampling left an early impression on Manji. On Spandrel?, Manji’s debut album, they recycle shards of cullet from various club and rave genres to craft iridescent pop amalgamations that deftly explore the connections between human, machine, and the environment

Often inspired by nature—and its anthropogenic destruction—Manji nevertheless eschews field recording, instead synthesizing what sounds like cyborg birdsong to tint their emotional soundscapes with a post-apocalyptic hue. “Oil/Too Much” is a prime example of this tendency, a song inspired by the environmental devastation that accompanies crude oil extraction. Opening with clicks and chirps that flit from ear to ear, the track shifts into a two-step elegy from the perspective of the Earth. “You’re burning my insides/ For a world that’s hurting me too much,” they sing during the chorus, accompanied by vaporous trance synths. “Eyes/Not Enough,” on the other hand, was created in response to the wildfires that devastated Greece in 2021. “I wish the tears could stop the fires/ But there are not enough eyes to cry,” they sing, interrupted by a cacophony of computer-generated noises and gabber-esque kicks put through a slew of filters.

At other points, Manji’s use of granular synthesis imbues the project with a cybernetic cohesion, from the glitched-out noise in “Pitch Black” to the misty vocal grains that eddy around “Closer to Midnight.” The conflation of human and machine that is implied in the construction of their music might be an articulation of what Legacy Russell calls “glitch feminism,” in which “liberation can be found within the fissures between gender, technology, and the body.” Lead single “Body/Prison” explores that idea: “A hologram of lies is trying to own me and I can’t escape/ A body that’s not mine and I can’t escape,” they sing, lamenting a certain projection of gender identity as an airy trance progression floats unfettered by percussion. Manji seems to transcend the shackles of the body by conducting these computer-assisted experiments in sound. With Spandrel?, Manji set out to ask “what elements of ourselves might be for endurance, and what might just be decoration,” per the liner notes. While the effervescent electronics that adorn the album may seem inessential, for Manji it’s perhaps precisely within these sounds, unbound by the strictures of melody and rhythm, that they find survival.

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