Austra + Gina X: Mayan Drums UK 12″ 
- Mayan Drums (Original)
- Mayan Drums (Instrumental)
- Mayan Drums (Vocal)
- Mayan Drums (Zeus B. Held Voice Versa Remix)
- Mayan Drums (Doldrums Remix)
- Mayan Drums (Hervé Retro Dark Dub)
Back in November 2012, when I was concluding a Gina X Performance Rock G.P.A., I concluded thusly.
“Apart from an unreleased duet with Billy MacKenzie on the Associates “Perhaps” album, Kikoine has not recorded a further note in 28 years. But with every band that ever had a following reforming for a last slice of an ever shrinking pie, maybe it would be premature to count Gina X Performance out of the running for good. Stranger things have happened.”
Prophetic words indeed! Just four months later, word surfaced of an EP that Ms. Kikoine recorded with the excellent Canadian band Austra. 500 Copies of a 12″ called “Mayan Drums” were to be released for Record Store Day. 350 were earmarked for North American distribution. I immediately contacted my local RSD representative and they came through for me. It was not a given I’d get this disc since Austra were kind of popular in Asheville with two appearances under their belts.
<insert 10 month gap here>
But I did not immediately listen to this record in April last year when I bought it. I needed a new stylus for my turntable last year, so all incoming vinyl went unplayed until last week, when the stylus arrived in the mail. I slit the shrink wrap and was astonished to find a download card inside the sleeve. Even better, I could download the tracks in uncompressed WAV format for full CD quality! And I could have heard the music ten months earlier if I had opened the record! So now I had full quality downloads of the first recording that Gina X had made in a span of 29 years!
First of all, Austra are to be commended in meeting Ms. Kikoine more than half way to her comfort zone. “Mayan Drums” plays like a track that would not have been out of place in the environment of 1982, had it appeared then. The drum programming features claptrap emulation and a methodical, low BPM that shows that they certainly understand the strengths of Gina X, oh yes. The slinking and rolling synth bass line is thoroughly at home in this cut to act as a serpentine foil for the vocalist herself. I’d swear I’ve heard that exact same bass synth patch used previously, and now that I’ve thought long and hard about it, it was used on Luxuria’s song “Luxuria” on their “Unanswerable Lust” album!
As for Ms. Kikoine, she has manifested herself in this track as though she had not been absent from the world’s turntables for a day, much less the last 29 years! Time has stood absolutely still for her magnificent sprechtgesang vocal style that sees her slinking like a black panther through this song, even daring to drop the loaded line “when rain drums loudly off beat, off Mayan heart and soul, come rain come shine nice mover, once in a jack’s blue moon” into the song because she can.
The backing vocals of Kate Stilmanis have been multi tracked to approximate heraldic horns for a touch absent from all previous Gina X recordings. But Stilmanis wisely leave the center stage to the vocalist I though I’d never hear again. The single mix is wonderful. To my ears, it’s closer to the mark of the vibe of the still astounding “Nice Mover” material even as the lyrics to “Mayan Drums” are far from the deeply queer explorations of that seminal album. There is a playfulness here that avoids the missteps of the second and third Gina X albums, even as it clearly vaults the Fairlight/AON vibe that somewhat limited the success of “Yinglish.”
The EP has a further five tracks. The instrumental and vocal tracks are included to make remixing possible for anyone who cares to indulge. Of particular interest is the Zeus B. Held Voice Versa Remix where Gina’s partner, the magnificent Zeus B. Held, takes command of the song to make it a full on Gina X Performance track, rising like a phoenix from the flames of nearly 30 years of layoff. Held fattens Gina’s vocals with a ghostly vocoder double track to recall early classics like “Tropical Comic Strip.” The appearance of vinyl surface noise during the groove’s fadeout is a knowing and sentimental touch. Why not listen?
Next came the Doldrums remix, which was aptly named. They deconstruct and murder the track with extremely repetitive and seemingly random percussive effects that effectively scuttle the sinuous momentum of the cut as if they had no idea just who the in the hell they were desecrating when mixing this cut! Ms. Kikoine’s vocals are used as just another dub element with no regard to what she brings to her music. This is one of the worst and least sensitive remixes I’ve heard in nearly a decade, sadly.
The Herv Retro Dark Dub manages to restore some dignity to the program by ending on a suitably retro note that simply reeks of John Robie’s NYC electro classics. The beatbox is spot on and is that a TB-303 baseline I hear? It’s a fun trip back to 1983 and a pre-acid world though hardly the reason we’re at this particular party. At the end of the day, the original mix is primary and the Zeus B. Held mix is definitely canonical. Austra are to be commended for managing to find and engage Ms. Kikoine and Herr Held after all of these years. I truly thought I’d never hear her dacadent intonations ever again, but she’s been conjured up in a song that compares favorably with the material that initially caught my ears in 1981 and hasn’t let go ever since. This single has more than lived up to my high, if trepidatious level of expectation, so I eagerly await the next step in the Gina X Performance saga.
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