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Waiting for the Void. On specifics of female vocals and the True Love


  • Would you ever think that the vocalist is male if I wouldn`t have told you now?

After hearing this remark once again, it comes clear that everyone loves this band both for the music and its ability to surprise the audience.

Surprise  with a vibrant female voice singing about Loss, Longing and Anticipation- topics, which are usually considered to be feminine, but are represented by a male vocalist.  

The pleasure that everyone gets by surprising the listener with the gender of vocalist reveals that the «game of gender identics» is among this band`s favorites.

The neck of the Androginy


Cigarettes After Sex –is an American ambient-pop band, which debuted with its album in 2012.

This band isn`t the only one who recently started to play with the gender identics of its vocalist. Another band named Rhye, apart from high quality music, also uses this factor to surprise the audience. These bands also share identical album covers.

Rhye is a Californean r&b douet, with a canadian vocalist Michael Milosh and a danish instrumentalist Robin Hannibal. Their debut album was released in 2013 online, whithout even giving any further information on the band, its members, e.t.c. This created a natural base for conspiracy about the vocalist`s gender.

Both bands chose very seductive black and white photo of a neck, which from the first sight looks very feminine. But if one looks closer they might notice that there is no clear sign of affiliation to any gender.

Finding a «woman» in this context becomes a pure game between the viewer and his stereotypes.

Both photos of quite identic covers emphasize the neck, though they don’t demonstrate the existance or abscence of the so-called «Adam`s apple».

On the one hand, this is a straight biological link to voice-changing because the  laryngeal prominence  is connected to the brutalisation of the voice.

But one can`t definitely see the Adam`s apple, because in both cases photos are made from the angles that don`t emphasize it’s existence. So, it is still unclear if there is the “adam`s apple” or not.

Besides, the non brutal voice of the male vocalist and the visual absence of Adam`s apple as a symbol of masculinity (on album covers) sents us back to the presumable root of «vocal gender games», with their long and bloody tradition.

 This practice was called Castration and has been eventually suspended in 1880-es. The Castrato  singing came out and got it`s popularity in Italy.  The voice was produced by castration of the singer before puberty. Many young boys were brutally castrated in order to «serve the market» and please the audience, which eagered for a boyish-girlish singing.

This was also playing on the element of stereotypical perceptions of the sound, but the roots of this game led to violence. The “proper” guys were being castrated in order to please the market.

What did the market want? Were people more interested in the aesthetic of vocals or by the contradiction the vocal and the vocalist generated? Probably the market of that days didn`t have much difference from ours and people wanted the same- just to be surprised and pleased. By linking to this, luckily forgotten, legacy bands show that market never changes…To serve its needs violating yourself or not …is just a matter of choice. Modern artists at last have the luxury of having a choice, which won`t bother them and will give opportunity to create.

On the other hand, the sound hoax represents Gender and Sexuality as an illusion and a Game, which one should take easy and not as a burden to be carried throughout life.

The Longing – Liberated from Love

«make love to me one more time…before you go away» («Fall», Rhye ) can be heard from the very sensitive song by Rhye. The rhythm of the songs sets a positive mood, creating a big contrast with the lyrics, where the sense of Longing and Loss is seen.


If we take a step back and look at the entire album, we`ll find more and more topics linking us to the main theme- Loss, Anticipation and Longing- sometimes positive, sometimes hopeless and even devastated.


Rhye «Woman» album

Open / The Fall / Last Dance / Hunger

Cigarettes after Sex , same named album

Nothings`s Gonna hurt you babe / Dreaming of You / Keep on Loving You / Last Days

Topics in these albums are typical for the “classic misser”, the highly nostalgic person, which, in the frames of consumerist culture is always represented as a Female.

Remember the women reading letters near the window or other examples from art, by Vermeer or else? Armenian mythology and art also has the image of a very hopeless «anticipator» -the Akhtamar. All these examples exhibit female as the Anticipator and the one who desires for a comeback.

Woman Reading a Letter 

Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window


The motivational aspect of desire has been researched by different philosophers, like Thomas Hobbes, an english philosopher and founder of modern political philosophy, who viewed the desire as one of the most fundamental motivations of human activities.

Psychologists often separate desires from emotions. From their point of view, desires are more connected to the flesh, whereas emotions are mental. They compare desires to carving.

Another feeling, mostly represented in these albums besides the burning desire, is the Longing and Loss of the Object.

The sense of Loss of the Object or its absolute absence, which is irreplaceable from the point of “classic misser” created a wide range of emotional palette for both bands.

The songs of the bands also slightly remind beautiful songs of the French singer Fransois Hardy with their aesthetics. Her works are filled with specific loneliness.

 Hardy  as “a master of crafting simple but stellar tracks.”[  whose works are “profoundly lonely, frequently insecure.”  is a perfect inspiration for both bands. Hardy`s works just as the Rhye`s or S.  are also about causality of the loss and anticipation, which has a timeless «universal dream for pure love (Cills, Hazel. “Review”. Pitchfork. 11 Feb.2016)

Anticipation as an Anti-consumerist Act

Both bands manipulate with a classical perception of  the Anticipator, always a female. This is how they crush the standard perception of both- the Anticipator and the Longing.

Both, Rhye and the Cigarettes after Sex, represent songs, where the Longing is liberated from gender clichés and is pictured as something absolute. If the vocalist is a male giving an illusion of a female with his voice, then who are these songs addressed to? Male, Female?

Doesn`t matter…here the topic of longing is free from any identities and clichés. Here anticipation and longing are equal to Pure Love. Pure, because Loss of the Object makes it impossible to devastate the interest towards it.

The absence of the Object liberates the Anticipator from consuming it. When the “utilization” factor, the urge towards sexual act, touching and else is removed from Love- it becomes a purified act. An act that avoided traps of consumption. The Object, the interest towards it and its anticipation will never expire, because the Object will never appear. It means that the interest towards it will stay forever.

The pleasure of  being in this process- of waiting and longing, is something that can be described with the french psychoanalist Jaques Lacan`s term “jouissance”. This is a paradoxal pleasure, which unites all the spectrum of pleasures and pains. “Jouissance” also has an element of horror, slightly enlarging the concept of pleasure going way beyond it.

This way the longing and anticipation becomes a liberated act, which has importance itself and isn`t linked to any other feeling or urge of further development.

The longing, taken out of “I want it, and I get it” dialectics becomes a continuative act of anticipation, which is deeply anti-consumeristic by nature. In other way, we could say “Anticipated Future” or “Anticipation of Future”, which fills the emptiness of everyday triviality and helps the Anticipator to endure struggles and discomforts of the casual routine.

When the “exactness” is removed from Anticipation, it becomes abstract and purposeless. This eventually becomes a self-sufficient act without any expectation of development.

Gradually, Anticipation is becoming the only connection between the Ancitipator and the Object.

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