Aïsha Devi's Digital Transcendentalism

Aïsha Devi's Digital Transcendentalism

Swiss experimental electronic producer, Aïsha Devi, is the kind of thinker that will talk to you about Plato, trans-humanism, and the "shamanistic properties" of Justin Bieber's voice in one fell swoop and have you spellbound for every moment. In Devi's eyes everything is to some extent connected, even if we can't see the connections across this dimension. A 21st-century form of enlightenment, Devi considers topics of biology, technology, history, and spirituality through her intricate post-rave compositions.

Her latest album DNA Feelings, attempts to channel these heady topics into a 40 minute odyssey of delicate strings piercing through the crashing waves of synths with Devi's voice calling out siren-like above the fray. Extending the conceptual vision of her album into live shows and her visuals, Devi returns with an equally ambitious video for album cuts "DNA" and "Inner State of Alchemy."

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Working with close collaborator Emil Barret, the ghostly psychedelic music video immerses the viewer into a VR fantasy of Devi's design. Coral like tentacles folding into themselves collides with ancient cyber cities emblazoned with pre-Judeo-Christian imagery. The nearly-nine minute long epic allows the viewer to swivel their heads in any given direction as they float through fractal-filled galaxies.

Watch the premiere of Aïsha Devi's video for "DNA/Inner State Of Alchemy" and read our interview with the artist below:

What was the inspiration behind the video?

More than an inspiration, there was a concept that I wanted to provide. A message, a content, a perspective, and a kind of opening of dimensional doors. I've been working with Emile Barret for two years now, he's been doing my visuals for almost every show. We realized we had a lot in common as it pertained to what the world meant to us and what our intention was as an artist. We realized that there was a ton of personal things that we needed to share with the audience and we were both interested in scripture-related, alchemical text, ancient metaphysics, basically everything that is pre-Judeo-Christian that is not corrupted by the dogma. We started to do a video game together for the first record. What inspires me about video games is that you can exist in another dimension, you can exist where your body isn't necessarily present and you can project all of your emotion, basically every aspect of your self, in another dimension.

Virtual games are really interesting in that they open people up to existing in not only the 3D world. It's a fun and ludic portal to my bigger plan, its modern and contemporary way for expressing my intention. When I'm playing live the intention is to multi-layer the stimulation, you have sonic stimulation that can sort of defy gravity and makes the audience vibrate, losing their physical corporeality. We shot a lot together with this video, the idea is that visually he will define a landscape, define a zone, define a cosmos and then make this cosmos explode. Its like your brain spatially builds the environment and then you can situate yourself but then after a little while it does dissolute. My idea is to dissolute space-time, make something that your brain doesn't understand, and when your brain doesn't understand something it freaks out, so then the physical loses all meaning to your body and falls away. My idea is to make people transcend. There is almost no space direction in the video, almost no time, the scale of time is extended.

Going through the video, it definitely feels like your floating through the ether.

Exactly, you said the right word. Ether, for me, is this kind of energy that exists between our physical forms and the air around us, a cosmic databank. I was meditating on it and realized the etymology of ether is eternity, this reaching out towards eternity.

Photo by Emile Barret

There's a lot of specific imagery and heady concepts that you play with both in your music and in the video, you mentioned pre-Judeo-Christian imagery earlier, I was curious if we could maybe dive deeper into that?

​We realized with every collaboration that we were always attracted by this kind of imagery and its not a coincidence. Before Judeo-Christianity, before dogmatism, before any kind of controlling religion, humans were drawing symbolism. Like the swastika, it was present everywhere in the world fifteen thousand years ago in Ethiopia, in Russia, in Greece, in India, in South America. It can morph a little bit from time to time but its always the same kind of idea, always turning clockwise. This represents that cosmic system, that energetic force, that we all belong to. Of course it was reused and reinterpreted by the Nazis because it's a very powerful symbol, actually, for me, it's the origin of the modern logo. It's a synthesis of an algebraic knowledge that is compacted into one symbol that will talk to you in a subliminal idea. It means that its not only talking to your intellect and what you've already learned but its talking to anyone who's ever seen it because its reaching your subconscious. 

I'm trying to work with this idea of reaching people on a subconscious level so that it can defy any kind of social or cultural barrier and use it to heal people, make them transcend at some point. If you think about the history of the logo, like BBC or Hewlitt-Packard, it really does become emblematic and talks to you without even knowing what it is. I love to work with them because they don't need any explanation, its magical, which is usually a word for people that don't understand what is happening, but magic is the world of energy, the invisible, even virtual is energetic. If I send you a picture which is data, you don't see it but it has a body, a form in its data.

Its interesting how much of our digital existence is driven by image-based communication, even though its supported by this invisible system of data.

Image definitely affects us before we even transcript it with our mind. Its been used in advertisement for decades, I like the idea that I'm using the same methods as advertisement but a mirrored purpose of it. Trying to heal people, in direct opposite to making people feel desire or that they need something, to make them feel like they have limits when the idea is to make them feel limitless. Because we've been on tour, we've had the best places to shoot. We've shot in Portugal, in Shanghai, in LA, and this wonderful garden that people refer to as occult. But I really hate that they refer to it as such because I really feel that capitalism is occultism.

Its fascinating that a lot of the video was shot on location because the video itself feels very de-contextualized from anything grounded in the real.

Maybe its because now, as humans, and I actually really like the fact that we can do this, we can connect to the other side of the world. The new generation doesn't belong to a localization any more. Its opening the door of a non-materialistic way of living, whatever a kids' social context they all have access to a computer, and they can use that to transcend their current condition. So de-contextualizing for me, is opening and going beyond our limits of physicality. Emile never sees things in 3D or 4D but he sees them in seven different dimensions.

Photo by Emile Barret

I think this gets at a larger theme of the video and your recent album DNA Feelings, the synthetic coexisting with the organic.

When I'm producing music with my machine I love that I can control and generate exactly the frequency I want to. I'm using a lot of binurals, a lot of frequencies that I know will have a lot of impact on the body. Especially live, when I'm using huge stuff to make that whole lower part of the vibrate I know that it will do a kind of massage on your body. At other points I'm producing beats that are crushing your body, purging people from all of the things that they've had during their day. After the purge and after the massage can them come the information. Pointed harmonization and certain tones that I'm sending I can slightly draw multi-dimensional realms, alongside the visuals, trying to make people leave their corporeal envelope. It's the same as when I'm singing, I'm in an altered state of consciousness, but my vocal chords have to vibrate together at a very physical level in order to become ethereal. I was at a rave with some friends and there were these little cactus plants on the sub and I saw it literally moving and then falling on the ground and breaking. It broke my heart. Music is physical and music has an impact, the vibration had an impact on the matter. Acknowledging this, that my music can impact your body, your DNA, the DNA has plasticity like the brain, from there I can build a good show or a good album and it can become more emotional. If your willing, it can help you transcend. Some people are skeptical, and I love the skeptics because you have to really feel it in order to believe, they cannot deny it because their body felt something.

Talking to Amnesia Scanner a little while back, they mentioned that they wanted their live show to be an immersive experience where the room became the performer in a sense. From what your telling me, and to an extent the video achieves, is that electronic avant-garde is headed towards a more immersive world-building type orientation.

​I love Amnesia Scanner, they're good friends. Ville actually mixed my album. He can project a sound spatially, my problem with pop music is that its all one layer but nowadays more and more its becoming more spatial. I was really impressed by Frank Ocean spatializing music that used to be so mono-dimensional. I think Amnesia Scanner and I, we belong to the era of conscious musician, we don't do music just for ourselves. We are kind of the post-rave kids, we grew up with that idea that rave was the only alternative possible and the community space where we would feel really free. Especially in Switzerland, I remember the hardcore scene. It was developing of your own path, your own aesthetic, your own way of living, you are brothers and sisters in this context. Electronic music and the underground and the experimental scene is really like that, we always bond to each other. I think we have approximately the same concept, the idea to elevate people. To make a show that is passive, like the old shows where you would go stare at an artist for an hour then go home and feel good but shitty, because he is the iconic thing. This idea of immersive implicates that the audience then becomes active in the show. They way they receive the thing, the way they respond, will immediately provoke a state of the audience.

Photo by Emile Barret

This makes for a good segue into talking about your decision to create a VR music video, the viewer very much has to be an active participant in the process of watching, not relying on a guided experience as a form of escapism.

I don't like that word escapism because it has a judgmental point of reference. People generate new connections in their brain through this kind of activity. When you have an intention for your video, everything has to be very precise, there has to be a script, detailing of the various shots, and the artist has a very conscious decision about when they are going to appear, what has to happen. I like the idea that everything is in the hands of the audience at that final point. Your perspective is never going to be the same as your neighbor who may watch it ten minutes later. It's a proactive gesture, its not a passive viewing. You can choose to focus on one spot or wander around the sides, and potentially see something you may not be meant to see, I like that idea of not having total control. We are all generating the content of the new society as a collaboration.

What is your vision for the future?

I'd like to make a show where I could levitate at some point. I would find the frequency in my voice or music that would make people levitate at some point. It would be such a good response to this heavy systems of sound that always bring you back down to the matter and the materialistic aspects of life.

Photo by Emile Barret