Dark Beauty of 47th Helen

Dark Beauty of 47th Helen

Adriana SaboWednesday,1 April 2015

What happens when your mind is so overwhelmed by trauma, stress, fear and pain? When it shatters into pieces, removing the ground under your feet? Mad Madam Em is interested precisely in musically describing this state of instability and uncertainty. Mad Madam Em is a songwriter and electronic music producer, as well as the creator of P’like. Her story is one that must be told to the generations of girls who are to grow up into strong, independent women. The musical career of Mad Madam Em began around 2003, when she started playing bass in an experimental industrial band from San Diego named Bishop Buzzkill. A couple of years later, Em turned to playing synths and finally moved to drum programming and sequencing. That is how she gained enough experience and knowledge to create P’like at the very beginning of 2014.

The first album by Mad Madam Em as P’like is titled 47th Helen and it tells precisely the story of breaking (mentally) and–which is even more important–of how society treats those that it ruthlessly labels crazy, unstable, less-than-human, unimportant and something that must be removed from society’s eye. As Mad Madam Em explains, the album “tells the story of Helen, a woman whose psyche has fractured due to painful traumas in her past. Confined to a psychiatric hospital, Helen’s different personalities tell of her struggle with depression, addiction, fear, and self doubt.” What makes this album even more important is that it was inspired by Em’s own struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The fact that she decided to address this problem–one that affects 7.7 million adults in the United States only–deserves respect.

47th Helen is a 9 track conceptual album, created through the contrast between “natural” sounds–like the human voice–and other sounds that are highly artificial. Emma, Katherine, Persephone, Claire, Temperace, Bridget, Dierdra, The Baroness and Lucy tell their stories through beautiful, meditative and deep electronic music that is dark, and yet, at the same time, has a certain fluttery feel. It tells us that Helen is a gentle soul who has sunk deep into a darkness that has imprisoned her mind and her soul. The tracks on 47th Helen are presented as part of a whole. Each track is independent, yet its true meaning is revealed only in the context of all other tracks. Just like the women after whom the tracks are titled are intertwined, and are all, essentially Helen, so the music of each song gets its true meaning only as part of one single whole.

It is also not a coincidence that 47th Helen tells a story about a young woman. Helen is not a universal symbol of human suffering, but should be understood primarily as a token of female struggle. I see an important feminist critique in the music of 47th Helen, since it addresses an important question of “female craziness,” shedding a cold and unforgiving light on the fact that even in this day in age, women are still deemed unstable and weak and that many of us still endure pain and suffering that is inhumane and often ruthless.

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Hat Tips:

Plike music, Soundcloud, iTunes, Image Credit: Flickr


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