Darkest before Dawn: Brooklyn-based Maŕa’s boundary-breaking experimental LP

Photos by Juan B. Cano / Words by Willa Rudolph

Brooklyn based electronic ambient singer / multi-hyphenate artist Maŕa releases 6-track LP Dawn today, April 10th, under her label Cultivated Sound. A celestial odyssey through ominous orchestral sounds and evocative lyrics, Dawn is a trip-hop-influenced experimental darkwave collection of songs. 

“When creating this album, my feelings were more targeted on my love, sadness, and the feeling of being lost and mad, but finding my own way,” Maŕa tells The Deli. “The darkness and the sadness in some of the tracks doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m sad or down. I find beauty in this type of aesthetic and sound. When creating music, I improvise mostly, so the sound is raw and true to its color, and that’s really special and unique.”

Dawn thematically explores the concept of betrayal, echoing that sinister and painful experience. Maŕa muses, “I feel the album is very nostalgic for me, hence the title Dawn. I felt this record is the start of things, but the album itself is many moments in my life, past, present, and future…”

In the second song on the record, “Romantico,” Maŕa chants, “Romance… Dedication… Destiny… Romance… Love…” over a dissonant mechanical techno beat. “Siempre estabas romántico… conmigo,” she whispers, which translates to “you were always romantic… with me.” Track #3, “Solaris” echoes elements of FKA Twigs, with violin backing electronic drums and odd buzzes and clicks as her sweet and melodic, yet powerful voice asks, 

“How did you say?

How did you stare?

Why did you talk to me that way?

Why did you talk to me that way?

I heard stories about you, your tales in the dark, heavy sunrise, heavy sunrise.

They say you’ll tell me, they say you’ll play, they said your stare with your black eyes.”

The way her voice evokes such longing is poignant, and the lyrics are deeply honest, yet simple. 

Maŕa’s latest single from the project, “Desperate Love,” track #4 on the LP, was released along with a music video a couple of weeks ago, depicting the artist herself floating through the city, enveloped by the cacophony of the environment and her own chaotic mind. Directed by Siqin Bian and shot by David Murray, the video wanders aimlessly. The song reminded me a bit of Australian indie/alt-electronic duo HTRK (an absolute fave of mine). “Since most people know me more as a DJ, the sound [on Dawn] collides the techno realm with the experimental, and now more vocally-focused, work,” she explains, “…transitioning into what I really connect to and love doing, which is writing and performance.”

The final song, entitled “Conclusion,” sounds like you’re hearing it from outside a club. It sounds underwater, far away…it’s ambient, but heartbreaking, still. “Stop, don’t look at me this way, don’t look at me this way / Don’t look at me this way, stop looking at me that way / Making me want, making me, stop / Looking at me that way. Stop.”

The track reminds me of Sleeping Beauty singing in the forest. Buut an ominous, menacing version where the forest is threatening, dark, and intoxicating. 

Maŕa takes advantage of the cultural landscape of the city, regularly DJing at The Lot Radio, Elsewhere, Bossa Nova, Knockdown, Le Bain, Pioneer Works, Market Hotel, Good Room, and Output. She also frequently merges fashion with sound and performances, owning her own jewelry brand Maŕa Peralta Studio (worn by Eartheater, TYGAPAW and Julia Fox). She even debuted at NY Fashion Week last year, performing at House of Yes to present her latest jewelry collection at the time.

Drawing on a decade of producing experience, Maŕa combines dark ambient, IDM, techno, and experimental electronica to create her unique sound. While it’s darkest before dawn, this particular expression of dawn is dark as can be, exploring ideas of sadness, betrayal, and power. “The rise of my skin that was covered by my darkness,” are words written by Maŕa that heavily inspired the record and the cover art, as well.

“This is a familiar feeling I think most people feel with growth, new beginnings and endings, whether it’s creative, work, relationships, and life,” the boundary-pushing musician expounds. “I think there is a beauty in these moments, whether they’re happy, angry or sad. Life is so beautiful but it can be really chaotic at times, and that’s really real about living. I want to share those moments with the listeners and relate to these darker moments, and hope they can feel something at the end that helps them.”

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