On their debut album Spandrel?, the Greek musician and vocalist explores themes of loss and rebirth
The title of Evita Manji’s debut album Spandrel? refers to an evolutionary quirk that lacks any clear or obvious function. “It’s something that is a byproduct of our evolution that doesn't really serve a purpose but it's part of us,” they explain. Written during a period of immense loss – including the sudden death of their partner SOPHIE and an outbreak of wildfires across their native Athens – they turn to the concept to ask which elements of ourselves are essential to our survival and which ones are simply excess. “The first connection between the album and a spandrel was music, like if music is a spandrel, but it’s the only thing keeping me alive, it’s somehow necessary for my own evolution.”
Having recently relocated to London, the Greek musician is part of a new wave of artists hailing from Athens, where they immersed themselves in the underground scene from the age of 15. Weaving together contemporary club music, baroque pop and experimental soundscapes, the album explores themes of loss on both a personal and universal level. “I feel like we experience loss every day. With climate change we lose so much, we're killing so much life,” they explain. “From when I started making music, I wanted to make songs to express this pain. I just always cared more about animals and nature than the humankind.”
In the wake of loss, Manji found themselves turning to the hard truths of quantum physics, biology and “anything that has to do with existence and can provide some kind of proof”. “Before my partner passed, I was more spiritual. But when she passed, I had such a need to find answers and understand how the world and ourselves work – I could not count so much on spirituality anymore,” they say. It was here that they began honing in on black holes as a metaphor for rebirth: “Maybe when you die, you just lose all of your energy, you become nothing and who knows if slowly you bounce back and reappear on Earth like in a different form, maybe the same form, maybe not on Earth.” Questions of free will, whether our actions are pre-determined or not, also surface on “Lies?”: “It‘s questioning whether this sense of control over ourselves and our bodies and our minds is just an illusion.“
Listening to Spandrel?, there’s a sense of something far greater than us; universal emotions such as love and loss are pitted against the elemental immensity of nature and the cosmos in a way that feels otherworldly. Manji’s raw lyrics – visceral images of burning insides and black holes – are rendered in cyborgian tones and fused with synthetic string arrangements and metallic sound design, while carefully constructed soundscapes crash and collide against one another as if anchored by an unbearable weight. “Will you still be there/ waiting for me/ until I get the strength to become matter again?” they utter on “Black Hole”, while “Body/Prison” navigates the duality of existence (“A body that's not mine / and I can't escape”) over trancey synths and subsonic bass.
“Sonically, I think it definitely reflects the polar opposites inside me because I do like very soft music, very ethereal and loving music. But then I also like harder, harsher sounds,” they explain. “It's also this battle between technology and nature and the future and the past.” There’s a sense of movement to the music, a constant feedback loop of something giving way and becoming one again. “I want my music to feel organic and alive, like an organism,” they say. “To me the sounds that you hear in my music, apart from the melodies, the lyrics and the percussions, are like little sonic organisms.” It’s this disassembling of natural and artificial, past and future that allows Manji to express the inexpressible, and how, like a black hole, collapse can bring about new beginnings.
Spandrel? is out now
Join Dazed Club and be part of our world! You get exclusive access to events, parties, festivals and our editors, as well as a free subscription to Dazed for a year. Join for £5/month today.