As anyone who sat through The Handmaid’s Tale knows, dystopian art can become self-inflicted punishment. There has been plenty of grindingly bleak music released recently, much of it impressively hostile if not exactly the stuff of repeat listens. Two recent albums have demonstrated how to reflect contemporary horror more effectively: Low’s Double Negative tempers terror with empathy, while Québécois producer Marie Davidson’s fourth solo album uses the blackest humour to subvert her nasty, tormented techno with its pointed clubbing critique.
Working Class Woman was originally titled Bullshit Threshold, and it’s hard to discern whether Davidson’s is high or low. Opener Your Biggest Fan would suggest the latter. Over bass loud enough to flip eardrums like pennies, she recounts the irritating things people say to her after gigs (from “Do you have drugs?” to “Who the fuck are you?”) in her superciliously unimpressed French-Canadian accent. Her displeasure with pretenders ratchets up on Work It, a successor to Britney Spears’ Work Bitch and Robyn’s Don’t Fucking Tell Me What to Do that should inspire its own series of exercise classes for the terminally overachieving. “Is sweat dripping down your balls?” she asks, with enough lascivious menace to trigger anxious perspiration in a Zen master.
It is cruelly comic, but none more so than when Davidson turns her lens inward, portraying a woman stricken by her own high standards. The Tunnel is a foley marvel, Davidson’s dripping-pixel synths, frenzied breaths and reverberant crashes evoking the “deepest of darkness” she accesses to “find myself again”, mocking her inability to “know real love”. But after the acidic adrenaline of Lara and the swarming sirens of Burn Me it’s the relatively conventional club track So Right that registers as the album’s most disturbing moment. Davidson submits to the dancefloor’s prescribed pleasures – “he’s got me feeling so right” – in an idly pretty melody that shows the disturbing ease with which dance music can subsume a person’s identity. Existing at the point where intense focus becomes total nihilism, the unique, funny Working Class Woman depicts Davidson’s fight to resist homogeneity, and the cost of doing so.