Shop – Artists – Maria Montoya
THE FOURTH DIMENSION
August 17, 2020
MEET THE ARTIST BEHIND A LOT STUDIO
Colombian queer artist María Montoya joins A Lot Studio to talk about the act of fashion as a tool that enables LGBTQIA+ Latin American empowerment.
Alison shares her journey on her label ‘Very Cherry’ while we explore the creative roots of the mythical creature ‘Blasfemmous’ and the fourth dimension.
By: Jahnavi Shah
“This is the charged, the dangerous moment, when everything must be re-examined, must be made new, when nothing at all can be taken for granted.” – James Baldwin
This has been a difficult year, to say the least. A year of fear, of change, of reflection, of reformation, and of revolution. In light of everything, we take our responsibility as a label and a platform that promotes representation and inclusivity even more seriously. More than anything, we take pride in the artists that we work with. Our collaborators are sensitive, informed, and active creatives that take their role in this world seriously. For this profile, we have an artist whose emphasis on collaboration is synchronous with ours. Blas, or Ali (@blasfemmeous) is a DJ and producer that has been creating genre-bending music for a while. She has been working on a music label that is a response to the constraints set by the pandemic and has actively committed herself to innovate in the space of music. Our work at the studio is a constant reaction to what is happening in the world, and Alison’s capacity to adapt, experiment as an artist, and care as an individual makes her the ideal person to align with our brand.
We love that you have created a music label that hopes to connect, create, and engage while addressing the wide range of complex feelings we’re feeling at this time. The collective power of music is undisputed. What is your intent with your label, Very Cherry, and what are your hopes for it?
My co-founder (Jon Clifton) and I are located on opposite sides of the country (he is in LA and I am currently in NYC). We’d been thinking about forming a label for a while. But covid really propelled us to begin our work. Before Covid, I was worried about how he and I would navigate being so physically distant from one another–it seems most collectives/labels tend to be centered in a physical area. Because Jon and I are already so far apart, Very Cherry from its inception was designed to function as a remote union of people. And now, because of covid, physical distance doesn’t really matter. I feel as far away from my friends in NYC as I do from my friends in Buenos Aires or Barcelona, for example.
Now that Covid is an added challenge to our project, it is also fundamentally shaping our approach to the label. We are brainstorming strategies for how to support other artists given the constraints of social distancing all around the world. We are working on starting a live stream series and building a core of engaging video content to put on our various platforms. Jon and I are both producers, which is another important aspect of our label. We’d like to support producers as much as we do DJs. Ultimately, I hope that we can curate a platform that provides a space for artists during this difficult time.
You’ve often compared the club to a temple and that analogy is very interesting to us. We believe that ethereal experiences can come out of such spaces. What is your idea of this ‘fourth dimension’ that has been iterated throughout your work and why is it that you feel rooted in this dimension? What stood out the most to us in your profile is the terminology. From ‘coven’ to ‘fourth dimension’ to ‘temple’, the words induce familiarity, acceptance, and escapism to us.
The underground club is a place that is otherworldly and refreshing for me. It is a place where I feel very at home. Pre-covid, I worked in clubs very regularly. So when I was in (underground) club spaces, it was familiar. When I’m behind the booth, the experience is regenerative for me. I’ve done four-hour sets that literally felt like 20 minutes. When I am playing a set behind the booth, I am hyper-focused and present.
To me, the idea of the fourth dimension serves multiple purposes. For one, it helps me in my thinking of how BLASFEMMEOUS views the world around her. She is somewhat of a mythical creature, a being both from this universe and beyond, and she defies the confines of dimensions, genre, and societal norms that try to constrain her. She is built around this idea of multi-layered, at times seemingly incongruous or paradoxical identities. For example, her name is BLASFEMMEOUS, but she also imbues spirituality in her sound. For this reason, I say she is born out of the fourth dimension. I view her as a sort of heightened extension of myself.
You have collaborated and worked with multiple artists like Madame Gandhi, BIA, and Still Woozy. What role do travel, collaboration, and human interaction play in your life and how have you embedded these experiences in your sound?
Travel and collaboration have definitely played a huge role in the formation of my sound. I began my exploration into music in New York City. My dad is a jazz fanatic and used to take me to jazz clubs from the time I was like 7 years old. A lot of my musical influence is also informed by the time I spent in Spain touring last summer. This past summer, I was in Barcelona and Bilbao for DJing work. When I wasn’t working, I spent most of my time in clubs in Barcelona. The nightlife was so different there than my experiences in SF, LA, and NYC, and that also played a big role in my evolution as a DJ and producer. I had some major revelations at this one show I went to, called Brunch in the Park, the day before I left Barcelona, an artist called DVS1 played a set. His set was so much different than a lot of the techno I had been hearing, and I was very drawn to it. His work pops up often in my mixes.
In terms of human interaction, my style is influenced by all of the producers who I’ve interacted with and become friends with over the years and it had impacted my approach towards electronic music production. I took courses in audio engineering while at my university, but I am a self-taught producer, which are two very different things. It took constant experiments and learning from a community of friends and artists to sort of navigating my journey with electronic music.
Lastly, tell us all about the eclectic quality of your sound. What are your influences and how do they fit into your sets?
One of my greatest influences is producer Grimes. She explains the thought and craftsmanship behind each track so artfully. I am also heavily influenced by Nina Kraviz and the artists coming out of her label, Trip Recordings. Something I admire about Nina is that she doesn’t let her production aesthetic confine her sets; I also love the hyper pop movement and the work coming out of the label PC Music. I also really like producers Blawan and SOPHIE; the way they both manipulate sound is very interesting to me and unlike a lot of other electronic Music.
My sound in my mixes (soundcloud.com/blasfemmeous ) and my production (https://linktr.ee/blasf ) both aim to have a mysterious, dreamy, and melodic quality. I aim to transcend beyond the subgenres of electronic music and focus on the coherence of the sounds from one track to the next as I maintain a flow in my sound.