Fresh from dropping her debut LP under the Cucina Povera alias, Maria Rossi takes the reins for number 027 in our Structures mix series.
Maria answered some questions about the mix, spoke about her incredible LP ‘Hilja‘ (out now) on Glasgow imprints Night School and Domestic Exile, and sent me some photos of her day-to-day life in Glasgow. Listen to the mix and peep our q&a and Maria’s photo journal below.
WIDT – Joleusa
JASSS – Every single fish in the pond
HIRO KONE – Aion A
SLOWGLIDE – Haipa
LAUREL HALO – Like an L
CUCINA POVERA – Muna muuttaa
MARTA SEBESTYEN – Andras
TOUCH EL ARAB – At 9
ARP – Raga for Moog and Violin
KARLHEINZ STOCKHAUSEN – Sternklang: Combination 13
TARANTULA – Tape 2 Track 3
FAWKES – Riddled
MAEVE – Av5
ECTOPLASM GIRLS – Transmission from the 18th century
CUCINA POVERA – Puuhun
PAULINE OLIVEROS – Nike
Thank you for recording the mix, really appreciate it! For the uninitiated out there, can you introduce yourself?
My name is Maria, I’m based in Glasgow and I write and perform as Cucina Povera. Two years ago I liked the idea of minimalism and resourcefulness implied by that word pairing. It reflects my production philosophy too – I make use of gleaned and found elements. I think this sprang from an acute sense of loneliness in a new city which afforded me lots of time to walk and listen, coupled with a nervousness and FOMO from not being able to afford the nicer synths. I am generally not that into hardware or possessions for that matter, nor do I like to see the musician’s toolkit restricted to what is traditionally considered instrumental or harmonious. I also think this is a great way to start to dismantle the idea of everything having to relate back to a canon, oftentimes dominated by patriarchy and eurocentric voices and makers. This is not to distract from the undeniable role my privilege as a white, able-bodied and relatively middle-class individual has played in my being seen and heard.
Tell us a little about the mix. Did anything influence you while recording it?
I listened to it again the other day and it occurred to me that it was very gloomy and dark and perhaps a bit ropy before progressing to become lighter and more coherent. I think it reflects my approach to anything musical – it is an incredibly multifaceted and multisensorial experiment in durationality, defined by something undefinable being set in motion. It is deeply painful and ecstatic at once. I think the Greek ex-stasis relates to being in motion but simultaneously in a state of grief, besides oneself. I don’t want to relegate music into the sphere of therapy but I find that it helps me find a sense of purpose on days I am feeling particularly lonely. My mixing is like my sampling, too quick or too slow and rudimentary at best but I see it as a process, and as something which is never completed, always evolving. Much like my identity, defined by feelings of uprootedness and homesickness to a place that doesn’t even really exist. I find making music a form of catharsis. I suppose I like to create a sense of safeness or shelter in the audible. I like to include lots of vocals, often play extended bits of field recording to create an atmosphere and love it when musicians don’t over-produce something just because they can, but instead enjoy the open-endedness and the textural nature of sound.
What was the last record you bought? And, where is your favourite spot to go record shopping?
I used to buy lots of records on a whim and because I thought it would look cool. Now I have become more critical. For example, I have become more aware of producers explicitly referencing other cultures and making a profit from this- myself included. I feel it is imperative to be critical of this aspect because there is a fine line between being influenced by something and calling it your own in terms that have positive monetary implications for you but not the person you “borrowed” from. The position of power the producer has in relation to whom they have recorded or sampled becomes particularly heightened in cases of removal from original context, which inevitably happens at the end of a trajectory spelt out by corporate music distribution. Having seen my own record go through that process is very interesting. I get compared to Bjork or the moomins, which is flattering because I like the aesthetic, but at the same time speaks to a wider tendency to look at something new through a lens of what one has already assumed about a culture. This is not to make anyone paranoid and I love what my friends do, I just think that it is good to be thoughtful and to speak honestly about these issues. I travel a lot so I rarely buy records, but in central Glasgow there is an affordable and versatile record shop with a listening station. I think selecting music should never be done in a rush or under pressure. I like contrast so I picked up Yong Yong’s Greatest It’s and Lanark Artefax’ Glasz EP.
What is your earliest memory of the club?
It doesn’t exist, because it involved drinking a litre of vodka and blacking out at thirteen. When it comes to clubs though, community and language play a significant part. English is a very abstract language compared to Finnish which is fairly young and therefore less evolved. I think language affects the way we see the world. A background in critical theory, coupled with not having to relegate certain affects according to gendered pronouns growing up has contributed to my identity in a way that gives room to relative fluidity and openness. The binome gives a sense of a back and forward motion, a kind of struggle or exchange. I approach the club as a political space, in which there is a constant struggle between producer/punter, provider/consumer, the self and the other and so on. I cannot go to clubs and not intellectualise them and see the power relations at play. This to me is incredibly interesting and allows me to hopefully contribute to a more thoughtful clubbing environment. I tend to be quite analytical and serious so it is nice to counterbalance this by going to clubs. I have always liked to look at the production side of things and cannot switch off the producer in me whenever I go out! I’m a sucker for exceptionally well produced nights and I like to learn from the ways other musicians, light and sound engineers do things. I approach clubs like this because for me they are working environments above all else. I also find them brilliantly messy sites of political dissent, and very powerful places from which to start to disband cultural imperialism.
You have a new release out of Glasgow imprint Domestic Exile, tells us a little about the record?
It’s called Hilja and is a split between Domestic Exile and Night School. It’s been an incredibly encouraging journey. Gareth, Katie, Conal and Alicia from Domex, Roos who made the art, and Michael of Night School have all worked hard on this one. The extent of my gratitude is pretty much inexpressible in language. Music brings so much joy and fulfilment, but at the same time I struggle with it on an intellectual level because it is an immaterial art form with very material implications. I like to use voice partly because it is an instrument that most of us possess and one that anyone can learn to use creatively. I am indebted to Green Door’s music production course, to Sarra of OH141 who booked me for my first gig, to Sophie, Jemma and Ailsa of Subcity with whom I first started to DJ and to countless others who have been there for me. Some songs on the album are about nomadism and loneliness, others are blissed out glimpses of hope and contentedness a la Ivor Cutler. Music makes me feel rooted, is the primary reason I came Glasgow and has been the most enjoyable facet in getting to know the city better. Love of music is something I share with most of my friends, and often a starting point to incredibly exciting collaborations like this album.
What was the last book you read? And, does literature influence your music at all?
My music and my research intersect in more ways than the one. First of all, I consider my music and my writing as an interlinking practice, as something I work on every single day. I see them as enriching activities making lived reality better articulated and more serene. I am intersectionally inclined and a feminist but this does not always manifest in the most outspoken of ways. I am still learning to fully use my voice, also I like to think activism is a balance of developing your ideas as well as expressing them. I believe that the personal is political and themes such as mental health, uprootedness, domesticity and gender are looked at through a critical lens in Cucina Povera. I read a lot about exile, and these texts usually relate a deep sense of melancholia due to displacement. At the moment I find myself doing more writing in my free time than reading. I last read Precarious Life by Judith Butler whose writing I love, because it embodies a lucid, commonsense approach to identity politics in a way that very clearly intersects with the world at large. Butler’s writing provides context and gives me a lot of hope because it is both accessible and incredibly on point. I am also really into 1960s antipsychiatry and love Deleuze and Guattari because they overlap mental health with identity politics in a fascinating way.
I’ve become really obsessed with film scores recently! Whats your favourite film score/soundtrack at the minute?
I’ve done quite a bit of film-related work which compels me to think about sound as not necessarily primary but as a response or complement to the visual. Emily Jacir is an incredible filmmaker behind From Texas with Love, where she asked exiled Palestinians to suggest a soundtrack to an unlikely scenario: driving across their country, uninterrupted, for one hour. The resulting soundtrack embodies a vernacular of longing and attempts to consolidate the disruption to collective cultural identity. I generally like the idea of collaborative projects like this where the artist is more in the role of a facilitator. Jacir’s critique extends to art institutions too- her site-specific installation got pulled from the Venice Biennial because it highlighted a renaissance period of cultural exchange, exemplified by the Palestinian origins of the Murano glass technique Italians have proudly lain exclusive claim to for centuries.
And finally, whats next for Cucina Povera?
I’m currently working on a new album and preparing for performances at Counterflows, Glasgow International and cafe OTO. I am also looking forward to playing more shows around the UK and abroad, and to upcoming collaborations. I also will inevitably get the travel bug come spring time and also can’t wait to see what GI brings to the city- it’s my biennial national holiday of sorts.