We teamed him up with fellow KABK student and photographer, Gilleam Trapenberg.
When attempting to make plans to meet the minds behind Meduse MagiQ, I was kept largely in the dark. An apt introduction to the enigmatic entity that defines itself as a “community for musicians by musicians” and releases records, puts on shows and unearths emerging artists. The one thing we knew for certain was that it was set up by Alexandra Duvekot, front woman of moon-pop foursome Blue Crime, and Rosa Ronsdorf, front woman of dreamgaze quartet Bird on the Wire. We tracked them down to find out more.
We meet on a gloomy October morning at Plantage Dok, a collective and creative space in the East of Amsterdam, set up by a dedicated community spanning NGOs, activist organisations, musicians and tattoo artists. Meduse MagiQ is their most recent addition, and there couldn’t be a more serendipitous match. The Dokzaal, a former church hall, is now a blank canvas that can be morphed to evoke divergent ambiances, “ranging from shamanistic weekends to very experimental cello music, from drawing exhibitions to theatre plays. It’s very broad, but the Dok collective does have a vision,” Alexandra tells me.
We’re sitting in the homely restaurant of the Dokhuis Gallery when Alexandra explains, “We like to think of ourselves as a community. We are both musicians with backgrounds in the arts. We really wanted to have a curated community, based on our love for experimental music.” Her charismatic gaze, peering from under heavy bangs, immediately draws you in. “We decided to set up a space that will function as a record label, a venue, a sound studio and a radio station, all dedicated to that love.”
In the hazy morning light, a faint glimmer reveals a silhouette of what Meduse MagiQ wants to become. “We are very specific about the things we book. It’s all about an atmosphere, an experience of music.” I dig for descriptions to get a grasp of “the experimental,” but Alexandra and Rosa cunningly elude my pinpointing. They seem wary of the limitations that being pinned down brings. This is difficult to rhyme with their desire to curate and organise. Are they contradicting themselves? Alexandra insists, “We do have a genre, a direction. Our bands Blue Crime and Bird on the Wire have a specific sound that fits, too.” Rosa sits calmly and quietly, without being withdrawn. She interjects: “Atmosphere is key to what we do. We envision our events as experiences you can step into.”
Their events are masterfully coordinated occur-rences, dedicated to evoking the atmosphere of their choosing. Meduse MagiQ dedicated one such night to the moon in late 2014. For MAAN, the Dokzaal was spun into a shrine, featuring artists willing to indulge in the sound of the moon, such as “charming astronaut” Molly Nilsson “music for sleeping stars” Bed, and art by “spaceman of the unforeseen dream landscape” Amos Mulder. International acts and artists, matched with costumes, installations and research, resulted in an undoubtedly atmospheric experience. The point is exactly this: what they do is distinct and recognisable, but sometimes there is no simple way to articulate or verbalise something so versatile. They require props, projections and a willing group of explorers to investigate with them. Their niche is exactly what they say it is – the experimental.
“We live in a time in which people that live across the ocean don’t feel far away. So we want to create a kind of web.”
“We really found each other in these views,” Rosa reveals when we speak of Meduse MagiQ’s genesis. “We met by playing similar shows, in De Nieuwe Anita and such, five years ago.” “Always friendly but operating in our own range,” Alexandra refines. It wasn’t until after their artistic paths took them both to New York, separately, that the two found each other, that they connected. “I lived in New York for a while,” Alexandra explains, “where I was alone most of the time. The solitude gave me the space to think about how I experience music. I was feeling uncomfortable with the commercial approach to making music, and realised I needed to connect – not professionally, but intimately – to continue making the music I wanted to make.”
“It was years later, after I returned from New York,” Rosa chimes in, “that I reached out to Alexandra and we found ourselves sharing the exact same feeling. A sort of epiphany – music should be about that connection all of the time. That’s why we wanted to set up this community, which does exactly that.”
Connection is at the core of everything they do. Chemistry and mutual understanding make the groundwork for their collaborations. “It is about connection, friends, making things happen,” Alexandra explains. Meduse MagiQ is expert at channelling the energy different people bring forward, to get things done, together. In that way, they have placed themselves at the axis of a web of creators. Take for example Blue Crime’s album cover, which was shot by Alexandra’s photographer sister, Iris Duvekot, or the one for Bird on the Wire’s recent record, painted by Jacco Olivier after the band played at his exhibition. FANGOVER, made up of cinematographer Fan Liao and director Gover Meit, directed Blue Crime’s video for “The Whore,” and even landed the band with an interview published in Chinese. Then there’s their date with The Space Lady, which they put on with Red Light Radio — it was sparked during a chat Rosa had with Susan Dietrich herself after a show.
But this is not happenstance, it is a philosophy; one that pursues connection and cultivates personal exploration. And although it sounds ethereal, it is all very human. “I make music because I love making music, but I also love to connect to an audience,” Alexandra speaks of her ten years of experience. “To do that, you have to give them part of yourself. I think Meduse MagiQ works like that too – we’re trying to give.”
They want to create a stage for the artists they believe in and build bridges between the “islands of communities” operating throughout the country. They began locally, at Amsterdam squats Vrankrijk and OCCII, while dreaming of broadening their scope internationally. Alexandra has recently been on an Eastern European tour and Rosa has just returned from a trip to America’s West Coast. “We meet these kind of people everywhere we go,” Rosa marvels. “We live in a time in which people that live across the ocean don’t feel far away. So we want to create a kind of web. You want to be able to go places where people like your music, but you also want to bring something new to Amsterdam – a fairly small place.” Alexandra encouragingly observes, “Things are really starting to change here, now. I have hope for our small city.”
Upstairs lies their headquarters, in the depths of its transformation. The small space aspires to be a manifestation of all their explorations. It is destined, according to Rosa, to be just as multidimensional as Meduse MagiQ. “A music studio, radio station, cosy hang out, and tiny shop with mini exhibitions” – essentially, a home base for their curiosities. On 26 November, the duo will hold their headquarters’ grand opening, MQ EXORDE*, in what I now understand is the quintessential Meduse MagiQ style. “We’ll be debuting projects that have never seen the light of day,” Alexandra beams. “From artists such as Slumberland & Sven Torfs, from Belgium, who I’ve toured with a lot, Meduse MagiQ’s newest project Raaf & Rover and shaman folk by Right on Mountain.”
As my morning with Alexandra and Rosa draws to a close, I realise that in seeking to reveal what they do, I have largely discovered who they are. They are intuitive and spontaneous, both on their own and in their collaborations with other artists. They are anchored by a clear point of focus, whilst still being free to explore beyond that. It is a mindset truly fitting those interested in the experimental. The fact of the matter is that if you want to know more, there’s only one thing for it. Attend an event and immerse yourself in the depths of Meduse MagiQ, and be ready to discover the intricate mysteries that await you.
* This feature was written and published prior to the MQ EXORDE event.
Meduse MagiQ would like to say “Merci to Cyriel Cremers from Studio13 for his generosity and Panda de Haan for being an excellent hustler.”
Blue Crime play the Goose Island event at De School on 22 March.