Women of the Underground Who Rock
Sophia Ramos Dupre
~review by Blu
The underground genres that we often cover in StarVox usually feature female vocals in ethereal modes - beautiful, goddess-like and mesmerizing. One Projekt's latest comps - Sierienna, is a testament to the beauty of such work (see our review in June's archives). However, what really gets to me personally (and maybe its cause I'm old and jaded), is when I hear outstanding and for lack of a better word -- tough -- vocals coming from women who defy all normal conventions and let their emotions rip from their guts in the tradition of Janus Joplin and Patty Smith. There is this common misconception in society (and even in the underground scenes) that women are supposed to be quiet and polite - still, and what century is it folks? So nothing gets my blood moving and my mind churning like it does when I hear a band who's female singer doesn't hold back. They're real and gritty and brave. They are nothing short of my heroes. Most recently - three such individuals came to my attention: Christian Merry from Acts Magdalena, Marisa Bozza from Cosmic Slut, and Sophia Ramos Dupre.
Being editor sometimes means I miss out on things -- most of the CD's I get go out to my talented staff to review and I sometimes miss out on some really great work. Acts Magdalena was one such band who got sent out immediately for review before I ever had a chance to listen to it myself. (Stephanie wrote an outstanding review of it btw- check out our archives!) I had the opportunity to meet Christian Merry and Rick Van Benschoten at GothCon here in Atlanta. Beautiful, sweet and composed, Christian's demeanor in public in no way hinted at her music and having not heard the CD; the impact of meeting her would not hit me until months later when I was in Seattle for C6.
On the Thursday before Convergence began, several of us had went to Portland's Tonic Lounge to see some local bands (see our Concert reviews) and Spinmistress Batty was DJing between sets with other DJs. There was a song she played that blew me away - "Elliptical Mind's Eye". It started out normally enough with elements of church-like organ (done impressively on bass btw). It had a good beat so I started dancing to it. As the song went on, the vocals got more and more strained and agitated until the singer was literally growling with so much emotion that I had to stop just to *listen* to it. Batty was jamming in the DJ booth -- mouthing the words and growling along right along with the singer with animated facial expressions. It was powerful, invigorating and fun all at once. The woman - this voice, had went from angel to demoness in minutes. It was incredible. It was Acts Magdalena. I *wanted* that CD obsessively after that. And as if she knew all along that this would happen, Christian had sent another copy of their CD by way of Jett Black especially for me that I would get a few days later signed "I Love you Blu -- Christian". Wow. If I had known what their music was like before, poor Stephanie would have never gotten that first CD to review <wink>. It is now a staple in my musical diet and I never lose an opportunity to play it for someone just to see their surprised face when Christian's voice kicks in.
Christian has proved to be utterly sweet and endearing in all my contact with her. Her little hand-drawn story books speak of courage in fairy tale worlds - of hope, peace, tolerance and love. They are enough to make me cry. She would appear to be the very image of "goddess" that you'd expect from ethereal bands. And yet, there is a fire and rage inside of her that will not be contained. She'll give the death metal vocalists a run for their money. She has lived a life with stories to tell and you get the feeling that her singing is a cleansing process - the insides are ripped open to bleed clean and she's not the least bit shy about it. She must be mesmerizing and inspiring to watch perform live.
Upon reviewing their first CD - A Cosmic Slut Production; Marisa sent me a 3-song follow-up, Who Killed the Cat. And if you thought I spoke highly of their first CD (see our CD reviews), you might be surprised that I was impressed so much further by the next one. Still featuring that gritty spoken word Portisehead-styled vocals, Who Killed the Cat is fierce and unrelenting. I am fascinated by Marisa's vocals that seem to be an instrument themselves. Syllables and pauses take on a life of their own and at times - remind me of the speaking styles of great actresses of days past - precise and predetermined. With the raw energy of Wendy O and the outrageousness of Nina Haagan; Marisa takes you into an alternate universe. You cannot help but listen in rapt attention.
"Domestic Nightmare" is as witty as it is scary as they portray the American dysfunctional family - "The television's always on, it does our talking for us. Dad is playing poker now with Norman and Dolores. Mother's hair's in curlers she can't make it to the door. She's trying to look nice for dad; I don't know what for," Marisa growls. Mommy dearest anyone? Joan Crawford has nothing on this song. And just when you thought you had her figured out; she offers the song "Somebody" which is as hypnotic as it is otherworldly in its melodic, liquidity flow. Cosmic Slut is not your usual band - I dare say you won't find anything else out there like them. But enough of me -- hear them for yourself.
Sophia Ramos Dupre
I first met Sophia during the practice run for a Glitterdome night. She was there as one of Pat Brigg's guests for his birthday bash having toured with him and Psychotica during a Lollapalooza tour. That night, Sophia sang "Acid Queen" and stole the show with her powerful vocals and charismatic presense. A few weeks later a promo packet arrived in my mailbox with her self-titled CD and I was even more awe-struck.
"When I first saw Tine Turner as the Acid Queen in Tommy, I though, 'That's it.' I wanted to be a rock and roll bitch too." - Sophia
Her songs are lyrically brutal in their truth and raw honesty on subjects of loss, faith, love and self-esteem. Her deliverance of them is nothing short of soul-defining as she breaks traditional barriers of women and of ethnic groups. Sophia is a woman with a heart of gold and a vision of rockn'roll and refuses to be constrained by any predetermined opinions of what she should be doing. Recently she won the VH1 "undiscovered artist" competition - be looking for her video beginning August 19th! Congrats! Sophia will return to perform at Glitterdome in September. (Check your volume on your speakers before downloading Sophia's web page. You're in for just a little example of how powerful her voice is...)
Sound samples of all the bands mentioned above can be found on the following web pages: