“It’s cool to depend on yourself and come out the other side and be like ‘cool, I did that.’” So says Ridgewood-based ambient experimental artist M. Maria. She is on the cusp of dropping her debut EP Saturn Returned, from which she premieres single “There’s A Spirit In My Body” on Audiofemme today. Entirely self-produced and recorded, it is yet another example of a project only dreamt about pre-pandemic but actualized once we were forced to stay home.
“Before the pandemic hit, I really wanted to make an album, but I hadn’t spent enough time in it to where I really understood how to record music, how to produce it,” M. Maria explains. “I feel like as soon as we had time to be by ourselves and shut the world out, I was able to just go straight into Ableton, just progressing and getting better until I had actual results.”
Though she began learning Ableton Basics and tinkering with the idea of making music two years ago or so, it wasn’t until she turned 27 that the urge really took over, in alignment with the astrological phenomenon from which the EP gets its name (the infamous Saturn Return is when the planet reaches the same celestial position it was in when we were born, approaching in our late twenties and making its impact felt through our early thirties). “It’s supposed to realign your life in a way, and make you go through these extreme changes, to be on a path that can better serve you,” M. Maria explains. “As soon as I hit 27, I was like, I need to do something. I need to make music. I felt this astrological push, and everything around that period going in a direction that felt more real, and more like it was supposed to be, you know? Sorry if I sound insane.” She laughs.
The resulting music is darkly ethereal, with M. Maria utilizing her high-octave voice as an otherworldly instrument, layered over darker, industrial elements. “I like that contrast so I like playing with it a lot,” she says.
“There’s A Spirit In My Body” begins sparsely, with only vocals and a light beat, and slowly different beats and vocal elements are introduced to build into a heavier, layered sound. It brings to mind the likes of Grouper or Holly Herndon, though M. Maria lists shoegaze bands like My Bloody Valentine and A.R. Kane as her greatest influences. The influence is there, but the creative decision to use the voice more as an instrument than a vehicle for delivering lyrics takes the sound to another world. The emotionality lies in the delivery, not the words themselves.
“I feel like I have trouble expressing with actual words,” she explains. “When I’m feeling something, I start singing, and just having the sound of my voice be an expression, even when it’s not saying something. I feel like the voice can express so much with noise.”
Having mixed and produced the EP, each song is a creation all her own. As she preps for release later this summer, and for her first live shows, M. Maria expresses some apprehension around releasing her first creative endeavor into the world. At the same time, though, she recognizes that Saturn Returned is only the beginning, and confidence in her potential provides some relief from that pressure. “There’s going be so much more to build off of it,” she says.
Follow M. Maria on Instagram for ongoing updates.