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EVITA MANJI

Evitamanji Phoenix 12Dec2023 Rubyboland Webres 19

On the cover of Evita Manji's album Spandrel? of last year, the Athens-based artist is frocked in a sheer organza robe, horn-like metallic tubing emerging from her temples, wearing an expression of steely ambivalence. It's an arresting image, like a Victorian portrait blasted into the future, the first of the album's many intriguing contradictions. Markedly different in sound to 2020's more outwardly club-oriented release NeptuneSpandrel? is all anxious, pounding drums and sprightly synth programming, hypermodern in sound yet baroque in sensibility. Written around the time of the wildfires that plagued Athens in 2021, themes of escape, cyberneticism and melancholy recur. What does it mean to be “living and breathing metal” asks standout track 'The Lungs of a Burning Body', and will a digital world merely replicate the hierarchies and power imbalances of the “real” world? It's a heady listen, yet one not without humour, Manji's compositional nous adding some levity to the bleakness of her lyrics. In the year since its release, Evita has toured across Asia and Australia, including two sold-out shows at Phoenix Central Park in Sydney, a recording of which can be viewed below. Listen to her TANK Mix and read our interview with Manji on ecology, her curatorial platform myxoxym and the quirks of British weather.

TANK Your work is deeply concerned with ecology and the often extractive relationship humans have with their environments. How did you become engaged in this field and which ecological thinkers or texts have influenced your practice?
Evita Manji I feel like I was born with this knowledge. I can’t recall very many memories without some connection to these matters or any sort of eye-opening moment after reading someone’s text. I guess I’m quite an obsessive thinker and I’ve always felt like there’s something quite troubling to me about humanity.

TANK Your album Spandrel? took its name from a biological term meaning a secondary byproduct of an evolutionary adaption. Why the word spandrel and why the question mark?
EM It’s something that serves no purpose and the question mark is to ask “Does this serve a real purpose?”. A lot of things are argued to be spandrels, including music, and I was thinking a lot about its purpose in my life. I also loved its dual meaning as it is also used in architecture to describe the space created between two arches. I thought it was symbolically funny because I dropped out of architecture school to focus on music and most of the songs in the album have dual meanings too. I’m not claiming to have any answers, I just found the term and its possibilities fascinating. So many things to argue about.

TANK Neptune had a bright, club-leaning sound, whereas Spandrel? is bleaker and more introspective. Other than the tragic personal circumstances you experienced which are addressed on the album, what has motivated this move towards darker sonics?
EM Each release reflects which part of myself I want to share with the world and my relationship to music and music spaces at that time. Neptune was made in pre-Covid times, when I was very much invested and involved in the club scene. Spandrel? was a different process, with different intentions and much more thought behind the relationship between meaning and sound. The only space it could exist in at the time of its conception was my house and the space within. Making its sounds was very much like getting a brain massage and creating life at the same time. It helped me escape from reality while confronting it, during that dark period of my life. But to be honest, I never stick to one specific way for too long anyway. My next album might sound quite different too.

TANK What motivated returning to Athens after living in London? 
EM I need to be in a quiet and isolated place right now. I also really cannot stand the grey sky and freezing cold.

TANK You’ve described your label/platform myxoxym as a “slow and fluid project”. What are the challenges and rewards of independent production?
EM The biggest challenge is that the boring, non-creative stuff takes a lot of time and attention away from what could have been studio time. It’s also difficult, if you’re a bit messy like me, to keep track of things and meet deadlines. I’d rather not stress too much so that’s why it’s a slow project. On the other hand, seeing it all come together after all the amount of work you’ve put in is very rewarding and it’s amazing to have total creative control and the ability to curate projects. It’s your platform and you do whatever you want with it. For me it is important to support causes I feel are lacking attention and importance in society’s eyes. In the case of Plasmodium I, our first compilation, it was obvious (to me) that I had to do something to support the Greek wildlife at a time of emergency and it’s beautiful how people are still supporting it today.

TANK You started clubbing in Athens from the age of 15. What did you learn from these experiences?
EM I don’t think I learned anything really but I had a lot of fun. I don’t think it would have been as much fun if I did it all now.

TANK In our times of crisis, what is the responsibility of the artist?
EM Pretty much the same as any other human being: to be aware, compassionate and informed and to to act responsibly. Artists are messengers, they send out messages to the world that are reflections of their inner and outer world. Sending specific messages through your art is beautiful and something I personally admire a lot. I believe it can, to a certain level, influence people but the most important is to be a decent person, meaning all of the things I mentioned above. That has the biggest effect on your surroundings. But if you’re all selfish and ignorant and lost in the soup of power and greed, then you must look into what your values are as a person first. ◉

Spandrel? is out now.