Italian techno producer Serena Butler describes his / herself as “a gender abolitionist in a male host” concerned with the power of techno to repurpose technology for gender-political ends. Having previous released tracks over the last four years on labels including Konstrukt and New York Haunted, this latest 12” EP ‘We Want Neither Clean Hands Nor Beautiful Souls’ offers up Butler’s debut release for Stroboscopic Artefacts, taking its title directly from an essay by feminist activist group Laboria Cuboniks entitled ‘Xenofeminism’.
Throughout the four tracks collected here there’s an overarching conceptual theme of transhumanism and a transcendence of established gender identity. “If Nature Is Unjust, Change Nature” opens proceedings by sampling an academic analysis of Donna Haraway’s 1984 essay ‘The Cyborg Manifesto’, which discusses how the transition to a cybernetic society would result in a dissolving of the cultural boundaries between genders, and between humans and animals as a throbbing undercarriage of muted 4/4 kicks and shimmering synths powers away in the background, metallic percussive tones arcing back and forth against the monochromatic elements.
While there’s a sense of rushing streamlined textures, the overall effect feels more like standing still as the blurred elements speed past, the lush ambient pads that swell into the foreground towards the track’s second half evoking a sense of wide-eyed grandeur rather than dancefloor energy. ‘Globular Hymen’ ups the energy levels significantly, sending ebbing synth arpeggios rolling against shuffling hi-hats and throbbing bass kicks. The relentlessly looping wash of layered textures induces a feeling of woozy psychedelia that at first feels at odds with the track’s pressurised rhythms, but then fits perfectly as flecks of what sound like treated guitars lock in against vast, dubbed out percussive crashes.
‘Science Is Not An Expression, But A Suspension Of Gender’ meanwhile offers up a deeper techno wander that sends glassy delayed out synth textures rippling against dry rattling snare kicks whilst injecting an additional jacking edge into its minimalist rhythms, before ‘And With Fire Came Disparity’ sees samples of Emma Watson’s speech to the United Nations on gender equality being set against an insistent pulse of burbling synth arpeggios and thundering kickdrums while eerie synth sweeps phase through the mix, sending chills up the spine in a manner that aptly suits the weighty subject matter. All up, this is an excellent EP from Butler that’s thrilling and thought provoking in equal measures.