Review: Maria Minerva “Histrionic”

28 Apr 2014 — Evelyn Malinowski

Histrionic is without a doubt is one of Maria Minerva's strongest releases. While some of us still hold true to Tallinn At Dawn, and others Caberet Cixous, it seems that the new album, out April 29th on Minerva-devoted Not Not Fun, contains the stuff of stepping up the game of music making.

The adjective "histrionic" marks someone overly melodramatic out of boredom or idleness. I'm guessing that Maria isn't calling herself histrionic, for, the musicality of the album is much more layered, premeditated, and directional than, for example, Will Happiness Ever Find Me?, or even Caberet Cixous, which, as wholesome as the latter is, embodies an experimental and sort of listless attitude. That said, it is difficult to think that this danceable, fresh audio-narrative is coming from an individual caught up complacently in idleness. It seems more likely that the album is a very focused work created by someone who has pulled herself out of a social and maybe romantic swampland, and outgrown the attitudes of the dwellers therein.

"The Beginning" serves as a delicate note-to-self, dance-if-you'd-like mantra. It is a smooth commencement to a very musical and focused album; however, when "Spirit of the Underground" starts, we know that these songs are definitely fueled by some kind experiential demystification. "Sprit" also bears new and familiar Minerva audio-tropes, such as a dragging beat, kind of angry synth, and elating, busy singing, which all sound out like some kind of siren or warning. Then, with the words "same places, same faces, same music," the message becomes clearer: there's mockery afoot, and it is dismantling a hyped scene, a uniform, purgatorial urban crowd, where moms drop their sons off at raging neo-high-brow parties.

"Ivory Tower" starts off modest with a type of rainy feel but succintly changes into a remixable jam, all while Maria begins her whimsical, echoy crooning over electro drum rolls. Then we move on to "Interlude," which is, basically, totally cool. I love that there's an interlude on the album, especially one that is a bit catchy and hard. Everytime I listen to it and it does its fading out, I feel a little confused since it had so much promise - maybe that's the intended affect? "Treasures" is sexy and has a r-n-b/jungle break to it, complete with Maria's vocal dissonance at the end of the song. Then there's the simple yet rather gorgeous synth wavering around in the background.

"Runaway" has that rad and rumbly synth, a Minerva trope as it were, also found in "Soo High." Her octave-bouncing during the chorus isn't only trippy, but also compelling, like the assertive feel of the lyrics. Another hitherto spotted Minerva trope on Histrionic is loud samples of men talking with aggression in a Jersey/east coast accent, here found at the beginning of "Endgame." This is also the point where we might begin to configure that the album is indeed a narrative about falling in love and all of that phenomenon's subsequent symptoms (irritation, demystificaiton, reality-checks, lazy break-ups), whether it be with a scene, city, or person. The end of "Endgame" dwindles in conjunct to this observation, with pleading reminders that she "bought you drinks, brought you flowers, read you books, and talked for hours." To compliment this quality of the album, that the narrative promenades us through elation to anticlimax with either someone or the entire city, we can anticipate a video for "Galaxy" in the next couple of weeks, a piece where we walk in slow motion through Manhattan with Maria, passing clusters of pedestrians held up at crossings, looking up and out presumably at the buildings, or, more psychedelically and optimistically, perhaps at the notion of an expanse of stars behind the galaxy of New York.

The Estonian lyrics on the ending track "Hingede öö" are very welcomed. While Maria's collaborative work with Ajukaja has delivered some singing in Estonian, and although we had a linguistic cameo in a distorted and sort of epic form on Caberet Cixous with the song "Laulan Päikse Käes," which is probably my favorite song on that album, it is still a rarity much enjoyed as it occurs, especially because Maria's back story is a significant part of her act. I would also enthusiastically support more collaboration between Minerva and Mark Van Hoen.

Thus, we have two striking qualities on Histrionic that we haven't had on her earlier works: Maria's spoken word on "Wolves and Lambs," and the concept album narrative. Knowing that Maria has been in Brooklyn doing her thing for well over a year now, and that sometimes love hurts or whatever, such a narrative about progression and acclimation, plus getting used to a community and seeing its flaws, are all possible biographical stakes scattered throughout the album. Regardless of the personal story behind the lyrics and composition, the work is well-structured, confident, empowering, and, for me, a 10 out of 10. 

You can expect to see Histrionic for sale here April 29th.