Review Summary: The ubiquitous Rose prevails in her modern electronic revival of 90’s synth-pop.
Considering the accessibility of technology and the internet, it’s no surprise that Elizabeth Maniscalco’s (stage name Elizabeth Rose) career archetypes the evolution of modern songwriting – learning to produce in her bedroom as a teenager, she’s now the principle songwriter, performer and producer of her own music. While it seems like Elizabeth Rose has simply shifted out of the periphery and collectively into dance audiences’ gaze, Maniscalco’s story is a calculated and analytical one: she’s been releasing music since 2011, while notably landing decent guest spots and studio-appearances. In focus though, Maniscalco’s ambition is curious for two reasons: as a female producer, she’s notably broken the producer-mold in a normally male-dominated environment; and two, her music sonically gives lineage to the synth-driven pop aesthetics of the 90’s.
Inherently, Rose is both the propagator and object of her cunningly orchestrated divadom conceit. Contextually, critics have noted that women occupy a scarily low five percent of producer and engineering roles in the industry; as a producer, Rose could be said to upend the trend in this regard. While it is invariable to assume Rose has had some assistance from other industry figures (Intra
having been mixed and mastered by Jimmy Douglas and John Davis, respectively), most of her decorations appear to be on the back of self-driven determination and a pursuit to work on the decks. “I’ve been working all alone, to get off the ground,” she remarks in “Same Old Song,” an astringent reply to those who didn’t offer her the time or day. In comparison to the conventional, label-propped singer-songwriter, Rose appears to have pushed herself to learn more than just how to write songs. She saddles up alongside Harley Streten (Flume) and Michael De Francesco (Touch Sensitive) as a tutor at Sydney based Ableton Liveschool, a course that gives students the ability to learn how produce using the program.
As for the record itself, Intra
is a playful expose of nostalgia; Rose is undoubtedly inspired by the synth-keyboard wielding bands of the 90s. Ace of Base, La Bouche, Alice Deejay, Culture Beat, Corona, and Real McCoy all seem touchstones for the sort of sound Rose is recalling, only with glossier and more-lustrous engineering that’s typical of this decade’s electronica. Within Intra
, throbbing synths partner scattered percussion in an all too often playful mirage of pop-euphoria. If it isn’t already, “Shoulda Coulda Woulda” should be riding atop the crest of a top-40 wave; elsewhere, “Division” is a poignant example of how an artist can mix political statements among square pop-borne aesthetics. “Same Old Song”’s concluding key changes brings to mind Beyonce’s “Love On Top,” while its opening lyric showcases Rose’s markedly improved vocal ability. “Kensho” is well placed piano-led interlude, while “Anxiety”’s lyrical deliberations seem fitting for listeners looking for solace. The songs cover a lot of ground within the album’s pop paradigm, both vocally and texturally.
While everything on Intra
is fairly well executed and effective, nothing really surpasses the sugary hook-laden song “Sensibility” from her previous EP (which is still undoubtedly her best song), and Intra
’s last two tracks seem to squash the rest of the tracks’ enjoyably elastic pace. Nonetheless, Intra
is an esteemed entry into the Australian pop-canon; if anything, it will hopefully inspire this generations’ women to be less daunted about picking up MIDI keyboards and DAWs and attempt to give this side of the industry a much needed gender re-balance.