There may be nothing new under the sun, but there's plenty of inspiration and style yet to be captured and commandeered, the carcass and bones of ingenuity left behind to burn and bleach in the form of one representation or another — a record, photograph or filmstrip. This seems to be the philosophy of local everything-and-the-kitchen-sink sonic cosmonauts Femina-X and frontwoman Daniela Riojas, who is a recipient of several arts grants that if listed here would make her, and maybe myself, sound rather pretentious. But I only mention them because it highlights her grasp of and skill in numerous mediums. She conceptualizes, produces, directs and edits all of Femina-X's music videos, photography and, along with Pop Pistol's Alex Paul Scheel, was the initial driving force behind the organic-meets-industrial aesthetic for the band.
As for the music, "I've always liked the idea of sorta taking pieces from all sorts of different places, and me and Alex like a lot of similar genres and we wanted to have an opportunity to sort of mesh a lot of our different interests together. So, it was kind of like a fetish group from the beginning, like, 'What if we put a hip-hop beat and then we turn it into drum and bass?' Just kind of going wild with the possibilities,'" Riojas says sensitively but with conviction.
And that's what Femina-X does. Riojas, the music, the images they produce and their entire aura is one fixated on indigenous, ethereal and often "feminine" modes of expression melded together with modern musical soundscapes. While the instrument accompaniment often forms something in the wheelhouse of a Björk, Portishead or Radiohead track, the lyrical content tackles what anthropologist Carlos Castaneda would refer to as realizing one's impeccable nature as a warrior. Not a militant, mind you, but a sorceress capable of divorcing what has been taught and the frameworks that constrict our thought with what is "being."
"Frida's Heart," a video centered around the San Antonio River and Brackenridge Park utilizes these sites as sacred grounds for offering and prayer and portrays Riojas engaging in a ritualistic self-sacrifice, presenting her own body as a gift to the river in exchange for its rebirth. The same theme of honoring one's forebears, returning to and reclaiming a history that has been discarded as "primitive" runs through the video for "INKA," a song-as-ceremony filmed in Alto Putamaya, Colombia while Riojas and Scheel "voyaged with Ayahuasca shamans."
I know what you're thinking and this is precisely what Castaneda and his teacher don Juan would have warned against: The cynicism of contemporary culture and "academia" rushes us to judgment, something along the lines of "Wow! They went and tripped balls and now they think their music is some sort of sacred ritual." Incidentally, you'd probably be right.
"When we had other people join the group, everybody had their own interests and so, naturally, everybody wanted to experiment in their own way and now it's become, like, this really amazing, what I call a remezcla, where it's just very much pieced together from a lot of different places, a lot of different influences, a lot of different cultures, heritages, flavors, rhythms," explains Riojas.
And that is what makes Femina-X's blending and unifying of the digital and the indigenous, five different people realizing one endeavor — swelling synth; distorted guitar; singing, droning and groaning violin; pummeling percussion and lyrics fixated on the cosmos and our place in and of it — a new format for worship and communion, for all. Because they are so invested in this rite, it is instilled with power and potency.