Marie Davidson’s politically-charged techno has a unique Québecois twist

FACT Rated is our series digging into the sounds and stories of the most vital breaking artists around right now. This week John Twells talks to Montréal’s Marie Davidson about her evolution from playing in bands to producing urgent, agitated techno.

IN SHORT
Name: Marie Davidson
From: Montréal, Canada
Must-Hear: Adieux Au Dancefloor
For Fans Of: Chris & Cosey, UMFANG, Not Waving

When I meet Marie Davidson prior to her performance at this year’s MUTEK Montréal she’s restless and eager to perform. Despite no longer living in the Québec capital (she recently decamped to Berlin), her French-Canadian identity remains at the center of her art.

Davidson’s most recent release is a collaboration with close friend Ginger Breaker and it zeroes in on exactly what it means to experience the duality of being Québecois – especially in a diverse city like Montréal. “It’s French but it’s different kind of French,” she explains coolly. “It’s also North American – suburbs, truck stops, gas stations, dive bars, groceries, TV, YouTube. We get inspired by all of these things.”

Released under the moniker SLEAZY and titled From Québec, With Love, the EP is purposefully mischievous, drawing parallels between Québec culture and dance music culture. “Nobody has done it before,” she says. “I’m sure we are the first. There’s no other Québecois techno project, not yet.” Certainly if there is one, I’ve not heard it; the duo’s fusion of molasses-slow techno, dusty sampled dialogue, rave nostalgia and Davidson’s own deadpan vocals sounds sounds nothing if not unique.

At this stage in her career, originality comes naturally. Davidson started exploring music early in life, learning the violin at age 10, but the rigid structures weren’t for her. “I found it really hard. I enjoyed playing, but I didn’t enjoy the theory,” she says. “I had more fun creating my own tunes, even when I was 11. When I was done practicing the classical stuff I would improvise and make my own songs.” Eventually this led to performing in bands and her catalogue started to develop.

“I started using sequencers and that’s really when I got excited: it changed my life.”

Since the early ’00s, Davidson has released music as Essaie Pas with Pierre Guerineau; as Les Momies de Palerme with Xarah Dion; and as DKMD with veteran Canadian producer David Kristian. But it was a discovery of electronic music and encouragement to explore the music on her own terms that allowed Davidson to truly flourish artistically. “A friend of mine pushed me to start doing some solo stuff and I was very scared,” she says. “I started using sequencers and that’s really when I got excited: it changed my life.”

The culmination of Davidson’s solo experimentation came last year with the acclaimed Adieux Au Dancefloor, an assured full-length brimming with ideas, rattling through industrial and EBM rhythms and synth pop melodies with a confident message that’s all too rare. “First I had to find a language, find the ways to express my thoughts. Then after that, in the last years I’ve been refining.”

Most recently, Davidson has been integrated into a new scene in techno Mecca Berlin. “I feel like I’m in a good place,” she assures. “I have a lot of inspiring people around me. I’m not mainstream; it helps me to be surrounded by interesting people.” The most obvious evidence of her new home is a collaboration with Diagonal double act Not Waving. Davidson added vocals to their latest single ‘Where Are We’ and just performed alongside the duo at Berghain.

When I witness her powerful homecoming performance at MUTEK Montréal, Davidson’s newfound focus is evident. I’ve seen her play a number of times before, but her on-stage persona has blossomed as her technical skills have become second nature. She bellows at the adoring crowd in French and English while snuffing out flashing lights on a wiry mass of boxes and screens; it’s powerful stuff that skates the line between dance party and political rally. “My life is different now,” she admits. “I am more of an individual, but in my music and in the way I interact with people, I try to keep it communal and inclusive.”

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