May 29, 2022

Deciphering Mondoneoh with The Allegorist

Words by
Henry Ivry
Featured Artists

Halfway through my conversation with Hungarian-born, Berlin-based musician Anna Jordan, she starts to reminisce about her time working in the visual arts. A period from x to y when Jordan wanted to be so fully immersed in every facet of artistic production that she got to a point where she was making her own canvases herself—spending hours reading how to find the right materials, dyeing them, and then stretching them. "How far back do you go when making something?" she asks. Now she wonders if she's at a similar place when it comes to music: "Do I make my own recording device to make my field recordings?" 

This attention to form as much as content speaks to the thought and care that Jordan puts into her work. "World-building" has become a cliché in the sphere of experimental electronic music, but the idea is taken almost literally in the tracks she releases as The Allegorist. Her compositional method captures this expansive cosmology: "How do I birth a release? I collect ideas and notes; words, track titles, pictures, short clips, Tweets that are inspiring. I collect and absorb information on a spiritual level—more like matter, more like energy. I am like a big tree and I am reaching out and collecting everything that is around me and transforming it and giving it my perspective. It is very important that you are connecting with your heart. Otherwise it will be shallow. I need to feel it, like I am transforming it into this machine." 

Jordan cycles through these metaphors and similes at a mile-a-minute, her effusiveness trying to capture her complex approach to production. It's all the more impressive because she didn't start making music until 2015, when she finally had access to a reliable computer. Her debut release the next year was part dream pop and part emotive dance music that could have been on Mexican Summer circa 2010, while the instrumental crescendos layered underneath wouldn't sound out of place at one of Innervisions' Lost In A Moment parties. The two follow-ups, Hybrid Dimensions I and II, traded the easy going party vibes for swells of strings, grumbling bass and fierce drum programming, all dramatically contrasted with moments of quietude. 

The cinematic scope of her music is a function of her obsession with narrative. Alongside each record, she includes a short written piece of fiction. "[In] fantasy and sci-fi there are no rules," she tells me. "Your imagination is very free and can use all this freedom to tell the world." Her music takes this "no rules" mandate as a maxim. Jordan has even invented a new language for her vocalizations, called Mondoneoh. Taking inspiration from queer theory, Buddhism, and speculative fiction in equal measure, Jordan has created the start of a lexicon that informs the music she makes. 

Breaking language down to the molecular level represents two interrelated goals for Jordan. First, like her dedication to crafting her own canvases, she wanted to interrogate even the most basic assumptions of the creative process, thinking about every component part of her work. But it was also a political choice: "I could have forced myself to sing in English as this is obvious. English is the dominant language. The industry is pushing English-speaking tracks."

The Allegorist

As a Hungarian who originally came to Berlin with limited German, few connections, and little money, Jordan felt like she was stuck on the outskirts of culture. She tried to bridge this gap by sneaking into university classes to get the latest in aesthetic theory, but the bar to entry still felt forever out of reach. Now, creating her own music, she intentionally avoids replicating the elitism that she saw in both academic and cultural spaces. Creating Mondoneoh was an opportunity to make music that aspired to universalism. 

"I didn't have access to Western European languages or English," she continues. "It felt unfair to people who also don't have access. I want everyone to understand [my music]. I put all the emotions and didn't want to put a priority on languages. It came out of my own experience to be excluded from the cool things of language. I wanted to invite everyone."

This critique of the material conditions of making music is central to Jordan's story. She is candid throughout our conversation on the reality of the choices that face independent musicians. Jordan seems torn. On the one hand, she says, "I don't want to compromise. I want to be truthful to some sort of equality." But at the same time, she also has to live in a world that demands some sort of compromises. 

Her newest record, Blind Emperor, embodies this contradiction. It's her most immersive and challenging record yet, filled with a shapeshifting morass of emotions, from the fluttering lightness of flute lines and choral vocals to the paranoid darkness of pulsing pads. But it's also the closest thing she has released to a techno record. "Right now I live in Berlin," she says. "I play techno clubs [...] There is a kick [on Blind Emperor]. It could go as techno [but] I like the tension building that then goes 'boom!'" 

This sort of compromise, far from being limiting for Jordan's artistic process, is integral to her understanding of the role of music. Jordan wants her music to connect with people, not just with dense and sterile theory. Although she has ideas about how to create immersive presentations of her records, she also knows that her music isn't "all for" her. Instead, she aims for her music to reach people wherever they're at. It's a fitting place for our conversation to end. Jordan's worldbuilding exercises are focused on creating environments of inclusivity. These worlds are not recursive exercises in fantasy, but ways to bring people into alternate worlds with and alongside her. 

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