Aïsha Devi’s stare burns onto her machines with the intensity of a laser. To her back, left and right, a flickering, kaleidoscopic series of visuals and lights looms above the packed space of Oslo, Hackney. A deafening sub-bass erupts across the room, hammering the ears, chest, teeth and hair of everyone it crosses, burrowing deep into bodies as two more frequencies, higher pitched now, weave like serpents into the vibrating mix. Devi moves forward, standing solitary above a crowd of transfixed followers. She raises her microphone, breathes in, and unleashes a howl.
For the next hour, the Geneva-based artist uses her hardware set-up and unflinching voice to veer from deconstructed, ethereal trance to enveloping noise and punishing rave-inspired beats, crafting an experience that is at once cathartic and challenging, harrowing and invigorating. Without pause, she courses through cuts from her recent sophomore LP ‘DNA Feelings’ and her 2015 debut ‘Of Matter and Spirit’ — both released on Houndstooth — as well as numerous experimental sounds that live exclusively in her live set. Once finished, the crowd slowly shakes free from her spell and she smiles, walks again to the front of the stage and says, “Thank you for letting us elevate together”.
“You can heal yourself with frequency,” she tells DJ Mag the following day, sat outside Dalston’s Café OTO in the blazing sun. “My goal is to make people understand that frequency is all around us but that it is really badly used. We are full of parasite frequencies that have untuned the whole earth. Your fridge is sending frequencies, your Mac, your telephone. There’s all this amazing technology in our hands but we are receiving the bad impact of it. It’s consciously used to control people. I think now it is time that we as artists, as humans, reclaim its power.”
It quickly becomes apparent when speaking to Aïsha Devi that her intention extends far beyond just making albums and playing gigs. For her, music is revolutionary, spiritual, political and scientific. Where those “parasite frequencies” surround and ensnare us, she wishes to infiltrate with frequencies of her own in order to liberate, awaken and elevate whoever will hear them. By using the right sounds, wound together like DNA, she believes we can alter our consciousness and be empowered, cured and freed, at least in part, from the burden of physical reality and its societal pains.
“We are overcome with music that hypnotises us on a very low level,” she explains. “Music is used in a subliminal way to make you into a perfect little consumer in society, to control and induce your desire in pop culture and in capitalism. I’m calling music to come back to ritual, to the healing aspect, to the opposite of what it is now.”