12 Feb 2012

Performing Autonomy: Revisiting John Maus and tUnE-yArDs post-Occupy

Towards the end of last year, I wrote a fairly long post discussing tUnE-yArDs, John Maus and politics, especially with regard to the Occupy movement which was, at that time in London, still fighting for its right to remain encamped around the skirts of St Paul's. That was before I saw John Maus perform live (at Tufnel Park Dome in November), a pretty challenging experience that made me want to expand some of the ideas in that last post. So here's a sort of follow-up, although it might also be a kind of corrective.

I spent a lot of time discussing the contrasting elements in the two artists' recorded music, and how these suggest contrasting political praxes, so I was all the more struck (and excited) by how radically different - even polarised - their performance practices are. tUnE-yArDs' Merrill Garbus, in an attitude similar to that of Owen Pallett, effectively reconstructs her entire tracks by herself, using vocal loops, drums and guitar. We watch her record each voice one-by-one, layering over the last, to produce a one-woman choir that can be conducted by foot pedal.