CW: references to depression and suicide.
After cutting her teeth on piano classics played at breakneck speed, anime opening tracks composed on the iOS GarageBand app, and a valiant attempt at funk rap, M0TH released her first full-length album FLORENZER on 12 September, 2022.
FLORENZER is an electronic, genre-bending album, blending elements of dubstep, 2010s pop rap, hyperpop, 80s dance pop, and more. It is an experiment in taming the most garish of sounds, simplifying the complex, probing the natural, and exploring the transhuman.
The album’s name is a Renaissance-era slur, used by Germans against flamboyant individuals from Florence and gay people. For M0TH, FLORENZER is about rejecting heteronormative blandness and naturalising queer identity by expanding our conception of humanity. By beautifying otherworldly electronic noise, she well and truly achieves this.
Describing her creative process earlier this year, M0TH told me: “It probably helps to know that I’m becoming a girl”. She then proceeded to explain how the harmonisation of screeching metal is a metaphor for the use of technology in enabling gender transition.
Incidentally, this was also the moment I discovered I had a sister.
M0TH is one of my siblings, and listening to the album throughout its production has helped me better understand who she is and the nature of our relationship. In a way that straight talking often couldn’t (no pun intended), listening to and discussing her music bridged a communicative chasm in our relationship.
I’m a bit of a guy, which means talking about things comes easily, but talking about feelings (without precedent) is challenging. Fortunately, I’m very close with my siblings and we talk often, but my relationship with M0TH has been tightly interwoven with our shared interests: video games, emo music, and radical politics.
Moving from Melbourne to Sydney for university meant hanging out only once every few months. When we did, those in the same room would be assaulted by increasingly-raised voices as we explained the newest theory I’d read about, a great album she’d discovered, and, eventually, my shitty bass playing alongside her excellent guitar licks. While we’d extend a courteous “how ya goin?” whenever I arrived in Melbourne, any other inquiry about mental wellbeing was usually implied in our interactions.
But on 1 June 2020, I learnt that our approach was grossly inadequate. I remember standing in the hallway watching Dad take a call in the kitchen: M0TH had been admitted to a mental health ward for severe depression and suicidal ideation. I can count the number of times I’ve seen Dad cry on one hand; this was one of them.
I remember the difficulty of catching a breath and the feeling of my intestines knotting themselves — a sensation I relive whenever I think about it now. Suddenly, I wished I’d spent a little less time talking about things.
I was never oblivious to the depressed state of my sister’s mental health, but its manifestation in emergency health care was heartbreaking. Entirely sensible, but nonetheless painful.
When she walked out 10 days later, it was the first time I saw her wear makeup. She wasn’t a new person but perhaps in the process of rebirth.
‘This is the end.’, the opening track of the album, resurfaces the pain we experienced as a family during that time. It explicitly references her stay in the ward, but in the context of her transition and battle against depression, the song is triumphant and proud.
I witnessed the song go through several iterations, and each time I woke up to the latest version in my DMs, I had an opportunity to check in with my sister and express my happiness for her progress — on the song and more broadly.
Now, undoing years of habitually leaning on things-talk when speaking with people is difficult; I’m still working on that. However, having a thing to discuss — that segues into a more meaningful conversation about how someone I love is feeling — has brought much-needed depth to our communication.
Beyond that, FLORENZER reminds me of the rich relationship I share with both my siblings. The track ‘r u stayin with me…’ takes me back to shared memories of UK Top 40s pop rap tracks on long car rides. ‘Aphrodite’ asks its listeners to dance together shamelessly — something my family is known to do.
‘everything’s scary all the time pt2’ draws inspiration from a shared cringe of YouTube musician The Living Tombstone’s Five Nights at Freddy’s fan songs. Yet, the lyrics are a sombre reminder that our childhood also involved overlooking M0TH’s anxiety. Listening to it reaffirms that love and family are complex and evolving. They require work, commitment, and vulnerability.
To M0TH, I’m proud of who you are and what you’ve accomplished. To everyone else, remember that there’s more than one way to communicate with those you love; for those who need it, finding that way is necessary.