Premiere – Group Rhoda – “Sea or Be Sea”

Posted by on September 26, 2017


Often when I think about darkwave, I associate it with emotional distance: air-tight rhythms, chilly sound palettes, singing that submerges its self-aware expression deep under hiss and reverb. This isn’t to knock its biggest current practitioners — I’m thinking of Drab Majesty and Black Marble here, who’ve written great songs. But I’m also drawn to the artists who, looking to some of the same influences, make music that brings its listeners close, rather than keeping them at a foggy remove. Mara Barenbaum’s music as Group Rhoda does that. Her “tropical darkwave” has the shadowy pulse of Suicide and the thinking calm of Laurie Anderson, and at the same time it’s immediate and intimate.

With “Sea or Be Sea,” Barenbaum sounds like she’s performing live, letting the beat bob up and down, riding the feeling out, speaking to you without interference. I can visualize her playing this at a house or a similarly small space in her home base of Oakland, where dance and experimental musicians frequently share bills and continue to intermingle to inspiring effect — it makes perfect sense that Barenbaum once ran an underground venue in the Bay Area herself. More than anything, her lyrics make her anti-detachment clear: “bored thoughts / lead to bored activities / I will not be there.” And: “my mind is free / my attachment is real.” This is darkwave that says, “I see you.”

“Sea or Be Sea” is the penultimate track on Group Rhoda’s new album Wilderless, out on vinyl October 7th via Dark Entries Records.