Avant-pop songwriter Mary Ocher leads a blindfolded adventure on The West Against the People | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Avant-pop songwriter Mary Ocher leads a blindfolded adventure on The West Against the People 

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click to enlarge Mary Ocher

Mary Ocher

Scott Harry Elliot

Getting a handle on the music of avant-pop singer-songwriter Mary Ocher is like volunteering to board a canoe piloted by a blindfolded Sandra Bullock: given who’s driving, you’re going to enjoy the adventure, but nothing can prepare you for the rocks and dips ahead. Born in Russia, raised in Tel Aviv, and based in Berlin since 2007, Ocher displays an impressive range of influence and technique on her early albums, moving between Lotte Lenya-style avant-garde torch songs and Robyn-style electronica. And while she performed solo for many years, in 2012 Ocher began playing with a two-person percussion juggernaut she dubbed Your Government. On their 2016 album, Mary Ocher + Your Government, her experimental lyrics and artistic showmanship shine. The drums on “DreamX3” make a startling entrance, kicking Ocher’s already forceful presence into high gear. Your Government, which has cycled through a number of members, also plays a big role on 2017’s The West Against the People (on the album it’s Brandon Walsh and Mats Folkesson, and the current tour features Folkesson and Theo Taylor). The West’s final track, “Wulkania,” is a collaboration between Ocher and fellow avant-garde polymath Felix Kubin that begins with a Father Yod-style announcement and clangs into a collage of tense, crazy, computer-made sounds. The album was released on Klangbad, the label started by electronic-music and Krautrock legend Hans-Joachim Irmler of Faust, and Ocher’s music fits right into this canon, balancing artistic abstraction with a knowing eye on social and political mores.   v

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