Modern Woman, the experimental project formed by Sophie Harris, is a sight to hear and behold. Completed by Juan Brint-Gutiérrez (bassist/ saxophonist), Adam Blackhurst (drummer) and David Denyer (percussionist/ keyboard-player/ violinist), the London based quartet are rapidly becoming one of the most conceptually-beguiling acts this side of the irreverent junkyard.
And so the story begins. Harris, an English grad student who creates content for charities to make a living, met Denyer through a mutual friend on campus; bonding over their love of “Tom Waits-esque percussion, and Basinski’s Disintegration Loops.” Eager to collaborate, Denyer, who was already “making music for a living” by composing music for theatre with the drama society, was quick to jump on-board- later adding, in their words, “similar styles of instrumentation which became essential in creating atmosphere in Modern Woman.”
With Denyer on violin and Harris’ vocals and guitar, Modern Woman quickly became more than just a grand-idea; seamlessly transitioning into the “Folk-meets-Punk” group we know them as today, whilst picking up Blackhurst and Brint-Gutiérrez along the way.
Which leads to the question of: “why Modern Woman”?
According to Ferdinand Lundberg and Marynia F. Farnham, M.D’s in their 1947 book: ‘Modern Woman: The Lost Sex’: “contemporary women in very large numbers are psychologically disordered, and that their disorder is having terrible social and personal effects involving men in all departments of their lives as well as women.”
Returning to Harris, the English-Lit student with a love for all things thematically bizarre and Brother Grimm, the juxtaposition between a band-name (it was actually Brint-Gutiérrez who came up with the title), and “something to incorporate the fact the music is female-driven”, was an absolute no brainer when it came to putting a name to the fleshy-form of their own creation.
“I think music – particularly raw, emotive music – is quintessentially feminine” notes Harris. “Naturally, all my lyrics are from a female point of view, and sometimes (though not always) take direct influence from my experiences. Lyrically, I like to explore the strange and otherworldly parts of being a woman – like the power of maternal longing, female obsession and the concept of a woman’s coming-of-age.”
Mindfully melding psychotic arrangements with the surrealist landscapes of social structures, Modern Woman have successfully created a narratively-maximalist masterpiece, all in the space of a year’s worth of releases.
The debut signing to End Of The Road Records (the same people behind the seminal End Of The Road festival), Modern Woman are on a one-way mutiny to somewhere terrifyingly exciting. The set-up itself is relatively straight-forward. Harris writes the songs at home and then takes them to Cable Street Studios where the band rehearse to “do additional arrangement by layering instrumentation on top.” What makes Modern Woman ‘stand-out’ from the cacophonous-crowd however, is their deep-rooted ear for detail, and collective love for all things dark, authentic, and beautifully disturbing.
Be it the discordance of Joni Mitchell-to-The Birthday Party-to-Karlheinz Stockhausen, or, “the weirdness of the everyday” as introduced by the American short-novelist Raymond Carver, Modern Woman devour their sources with glutinous-glee; a shared taste for all things thematic, which in-turn, has created a lasting visual-impression that crosses art and culture with effortless anti-decorum.
With the release of their debut EP ‘Dogs Fighting In My Dream’ in the latter end of 2021, Modern Woman are unstoppable. Partly written “near a lake in Wales”, and Harris’ old bedroom in East London, ‘Dogs Fighting In My Dream’ is a self-developing body of animalistic seduction, and meticulous-macabre. Recorded and mixed “over a few days in Hackney Road Studios” with Shuta Shinoda (“Shuta is sound”) and mastered by Jason Mitchell (Aldous Harding, Dry Cleaning), ‘Dogs Fighting In My Dream’ seeks to unveil all of Modern Woman’s fever-dreams, whilst chucking in a number of instrumentally devilish curveballs along the way.
Having always had a keen interest in “animals, the supernatural, and primaeval weirdness”, Harris knew from the get-go that no debut EP of theirs would be complete without a little bit of naturalism. With stimulus ranging anywhere from a painting made “after [I] had a dream of two dogs fighting” (the inspiration behind the title), to improvisational sax (as heard on The Eel’), the songs themselves spill out of their own bloody core with liquid precision; sounding somewhat like the chorally-carnal spawn of a translucent oil-spill, and PJ Harvey’s ‘Is This Desire?’, with a “definite Southern-Gothic vibe”.
So what truly makes Modern Woman, Modern Woman? Well, it could be Harris’ artwork adorning the sleeves of their work to date, their hearty-blend of obsessive articulation, or, if you wanted to dig a little deeper… “We all really adore The Beach Boys.”
Photo by Ella Pavlides