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Bored in Pittsburgh

Madame Dolores, according to her website, “seeks to carve out new ‘freedom space,’ a space for artistic practice which is not defined by inherited categories of race, gender and culture.” You can tell from listening to her new album Pantry of Salt and Sugar, a work that was largely improvised, that Madame D doesn’t feel limited by traditional artistic boundaries; songs run wild in all directions, with processed vocals, menacing electronics, and hissing feedback galore. “Heart feels like a new muscle” follows a bobbing bassline through a forest of reverb; Madame D’s raw, expressive voice bumping up against a wall of white noise that sounds, at different points, like a massive swarm of bats flitting through the recording space and a small aircraft taking off right next to the mic. It’s a jarring listen, but it commands attention; it’s definitely unlike anything I’ve heard, and Madame D’s singular vision shines through despite the sonic haze. Do yourself a favor and listen to the rest of Pantry of Salt and Sugar.

Pittsburgh Current

Madame Dolores answered her questions by creating songs spontaneously, using only her computer. After numerous collaborations, in groups like Soma Mestizo and Qliterrati, this marks her first solo project. She gave herself a limited amount of time to layer the beats, with lyrics coming spontaneously as soon as she hit Record. To date, she has created over 500 of these pieces, which she initially referred to as micro-songs.

The 15 tracks on The Pantry of Salt and Sugar come from this first batch, although she says that, with most of them lasting two or three minutes, they’re not really “micro” anymore. Ranging from stark, distorted beats to more peaceful, sensual grooves as it progresses, the album presents a response to the turbulent times, offering hope for the future. The album title envisions this country as a pantry. “If America was made into a cabinet, you would open it up and it would be full of salty and sugary things,” Madame Dolores says. “We call it the land of milk and honey but I call it the pantry of salt and sugar.”

Madame Dolores is releasing a physical CD, she says, only after being encouraged by friends. She has higher hopes of presenting music in nontraditional settings. Earlier this year it was featured in Streaming Space, a public art piece displayed in Market Square. She would like it to continue utilizing it for sound art.

In keeping with unusual settings, her CD release show — part of LovePghMusic month — includes a full band and takes place on a Pittsburgh water limousine rather than a club or a performance space. “I’ve played a lot of shows in spaces that have walls. I’m tired of walls. I’m tired of people talking about walls,” she says. “We’re not just going to go into any old club. You’re going to go into my mind. It’s something special and I want it to be special for you.” 

Pittsburgh Magazine

While this nascent month is a sort of proving ground for how the website and campaign will be used — and the community impacted — some local artists are ready to embrace the love and build off the excitement.

Christiane Leach, the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council Artist Relations Manager and a member of the Love PGH Music Month committee, moved the release for her album, “The Pantry of Salt and Sugar,” (under her performance name Madame Dolores) to July in order to be part of the kickoff.

“Love PGH Music Month is a way for not just the city, but the whole western Pennsylvania region to celebrate and value the whole music ecosystem,” she says. “We are world class.”

Stuckeman News

Students’ work gains recognition at the intersection of art and friendship

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – When graphic design students in Rodney Allen Trice’s Time and Sequence course were assigned a group project to work with a client – a friend and fellow artist – to develop music videos for her songs, they set out to create what they thought would communicate their client’s message and to earn a good grade in the class. As a bonus, they figured they’d get a cool interactive piece to add to their portfolios.

What they didn’t expect was for the artist to fall in love with their video and for her to submit it to be shown during an art exhibition in a major Pennsylvania city.

But that’s exactly what happened to fourth-year students Alexis Stern, Amelia Ball, Kayla Corazzi, Callahan Miller and Noemie Noullet. The group’s video for artist and singer Christiane Dolores’s song “Killing Patterns” made such an impression on their client, who also goes by Madame Dolores, that she then submitted it to be used in the Streaming Space exhibit, which runs April 12 through May 12 in Market Square in downtown Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh City Paper

Christiane D. releases her first solo album 

"I really needed to learn how to just do my own thing."

  • Photo courtesy of Curtis Reaves
  • "It's about the body of work": Christiane D.

When Christiane D. Leach talks about her most recent project, a solo album called Obliquity of the Ecliptic, she does so in a way that connects music and art back to a tangled-up world, one deeper than rock stardom and pop-icon superficiality. The title itself draws from astronomy, and references the axis that runs through all of us, a pole on which the directions of nature pull us toward one side of a spiritual life or another. OOTE continually begs the question: Which way are you flipping on the axis?

For Leach -- a painter, playwright and performer, who often goes simply by "Christiane D." -- the album's creation was a journey ripe with reinvention. She has been a gravitational and highly respected presence in the arts community for more than a decade, exhibiting her work in galleries and fronting the band Soma Mestizo, but she came to a pivotal point in the late 2000s. 

Her own place on the axis was being challenged: There were struggles with illness. ("I worked in industrial chemical poisoning so it messed with my memory," she says. "Which is why I had to stop doing performance poetry -- because I couldn't remember my poems.") Then there was the undying need to create, and the frustrations that go along with creative pursuits. The art-world swirl of grant writing, constant rehearsals and having to perpetually switch gears -- the grueling nature of "intake, intake, output, output" -- took a toll on her body and her creativity, and left her in dire need of a hiatus.

"I was still out performing things, but I stopped creating things," she says. "I felt I was chasing funds and grants and I was just throwing up embryos and calling it art, never giving myself a chance to develop something." 

The magnetism of her work was missed and her hiatus left a void in the community. 

"It took three to four years to kind of figure it out," she recalls. "And then I kept bumping into friends who were kind of whispering in my ear, 'Christiane, you're really gonna need to put out something.'"

Those pushes and shoves, along with her innate need to generate serious works of art, finally led to Leach's re-emergence. While she had been writing songs with friend (and OOTE co-producer) John Purse for some time, it was a brief conversation with Interscope Records that prompted her to resurface. Nothing concrete came of those talks, but the idea of a solo career, which had been coming in the form of whispers from friends, turned more serious, and Leach applied for an August Wilson Center Fellowship. The fellowship -- which she received -- was apropos to where she was in her artistic life.

"A lot of that fellowship is based around the question, 'Are you at a point in your art career where you are changing and you are going in a full different direction?' The shifting gears idea," she says, connecting back to the flux that she lives and creates through. "This was kind of a big, different direction."

As she's always been the type of artist who's serious about her work rather than simply trying to attract attention, the fellowship allowed Leach the opportunity to do things her way. While she admits it's her nature to be malleable to the ideas and inspiration of others, the fellowship permitted a certain sense of much-needed selfishness in her work. 

"This was really just what I wanted," she says. "I really needed to learn how to just do my own thing."

OOTE speaks timelessly, with a spiritual backbone and genre-bending sound (Leach neologically deems her genre "esque"), but also alludes to our current world with hints of gender politics and class struggle. 

Sonically, the album warps through punk-rock aesthetics, hip-hop montage, rock 'n' roll power and inflections of jazz free-spiritedness, and does so with touches from a sampling of Pittsburgh talent. Leach's longtime collaborator from her Soma Mestizo days, Herman "Soy Sos" Pearl, lent production skills as did Noel Hefele and Beau DeMont; the bits of hip hop feature poetics from emcees Jack Wilson and Dane Delloyld Cosby.

Leach, as a visual artist, puts just as much emphasis on the visual elements associated with her work as she does the music. The album art's imagery denotes a redefinition of femininity, or an attempt to create a gender void -- a reaction to pop music's currency of glitz and glamazon divas.

"I chose body-paint scenarios to represent two inner kind of beings," she explains. "Inner spaces of the shaman, natural kind of energy and the robotic, techno kind of energy.

"The industry today, with women, is all about spectacle. It has gone backwards for me, in a sense where it's more and more about looks," she explains. "Which is why there are no looks [in the art with OOTE]. There's just these two representations of energies. You don't really see my face. It's not about my face, and it's not about my body, it's about the body of work."

 

Editor's note: After press time, the official release of the CD version of Obliquity of the Ecliptic was pushed back to January. However, the Shadow Lounge show on Friday, Nov. 25 will go on as planned, and download cards will be available.

 

CHRISTIANE D. CD RELEASE with DJ SELECTA. 7 p.m. Fri., Nov. 25. Shadow Lounge, 5972 Baum Blvd., East Liberty. $10. 412-363-8277 or www.shadowlounge.net

Shepherd Express

With Obliquity of the Ecliptic, multi-media artist Christiane D pulls together a remarkable musical tour de force, a dark swirl of sound embracing snaky hip-hop rhythms, singing and rapping, deep funk bass lines, almost elegant echoes of gospel and urgently angry rock. Although "Obliquity" is her first solo album, D collaborated in the past with Asian Dub Foundation, Adrian Sherwood and Chuck D and their influences are echoed throughout her own music.

Thee Social Medias