Evelyn Ida Morris makes a gender-expanding mixtape
by Jana Perkovic
Aug 21, 2019
Evelyn Ida Morris, also known as Pikelet, is a musician who glides effortlessly between looping pop and structurally complex, experimental compositions. With a long career spanning four celebrated experimental pop albums as Pikelet, voted one of ’50 Most Powerful People in the Australian Music Industry’, a co-founder of LISTEN advocacy group for gender diversity and politics in Australian music, they are a legend of Australian independent music. Evelyn has prepared us a winter mix, which expands on the themes of their 2019 self-titled album: lush, post-classical compositions focusing on the piano, and dealing with the non-binary experience of gender. Evelyn is non binary and uses they/them pronouns.
This playlist is a mix I put together when I was talking with my friend Monica and my partner Erik about ways that we can move towards a different kind of future – by resolving and restoring our past narratives. Narratives that kept us trapped in our assigned gender, our fears, our out-dated beliefs, our sexuality or our lived experience that was based on attempting to be what others want. This theme is one that we all deal with on a personal level in our own ways, but I also think of it as a macro narrative. So-called Australia has a lot of work to do. The past, present and future of this continent could be dealt with in much more respectful ways; towards the First Nations’ people that own this land and towards migrant communities that seek asylum here.
Those themes presented themselves in this mix on a theoretical level – in the way that I’ve treated the songs – rather than being explicit in the song choices themselves.
As a way of declaring my own, new kind of queerness, I’ve taken some music that I adore, from genres I feel are often neglected in queer spaces. There are lots of moments of messing with the tunes, altering them with panning or effects, and layering two pieces, and there are some artists included who are altering and re-inventing genres that they’ve been raised to be excellent at; the way that I see my classically trained friends disregarding their training and doing minimal and experimental stuff. This is a DJ mix not meant for dance floors, but for the contemplation of inner spaces we claim as queer every day. There are also a few songs toward the end that are more about letting go of more recent personal narratives, as opposed to a collective past.
Ears #37: Updating the Past, track listing:
1. Slap Happy/Henry Cow – Desperate Straights – Giants 2. Jacques Ibert – Louis Fremaux w Birmingham Symphony Orchestra – Symphonie Marine 3. Comus – First Utterance – Diana 4. Karen Phillips – Viola Today – Bruno Maderna: Viola 5. Vladimir Ussachevsky – James Ostryniec – Pentagram (Prelude and Moderato) 6. Debussy – Isao Tomita – Snowflakes are Dancing – Reverie + Gardens in the Rain 7. Bo Hansson – Lord of The Rings – A Journey In The Dark + Lothlorien 8. Fair Maiden – Self Titled – Blue Moon 9. Chris Cohen – Overgrown Path – Heartbeat 10. Liz Story – Solid Colors – Bradley’s Dream + White Heart
What are you doing these days?
Evelyn Ida Morris
The majority of my time is spent in the studio recording and mixing music by local songmakers. Recently I did my first feature length soundtrack and started releasing new music under my own full name, rather than Pikelet. I am working on some performances with contemporary dancers and more film scoring, and spending as much time as possible with my dog and my partner.
JPWhere do you live in Melbourne?
EMI currently live in Collingwood, but have made all my other work in Preston and Brunswick. Living in Preston was kind of amazing for making music, because I had a room in the shed for my gear, and the rent was cheap.
Now that I live in my partner’s apartment, I have much less space, but worry less about housing stability, which is pretty amazing! I rent a shared studio space in Collingwood as well, which is really uniquely designed, so that it can be shared by as many people as possible.
JPWhat is your favourite city?
EMI recently spent a bunch of time in Los Angeles and really loved it there. I will be moving there soon, partly because of the friends I made, and the opportunities available there. If I was thinking of striking architecture, etc, I would say that maybe St Petersburg and Tallinn are two favourites that I’ve visited. But it is really hard to make a solid judgement about a city if you’ve only spent short stints there.
JPFavourite building in the whole world?
EMIt is a bit of a toss-up for me, but there are three at the moment. I love Art Deco, and fell in love with a building I found when taking random buses around Los Angeles called the Pellissier Building, where the Wiltern Theatre is located. I love the colour of it, and there is so much flair and flourish in all the details.
While in LA, I spent a few weeks staying at my friend’s apartment at an old building called Gaylord, also on Wilshire Boulevard, but a bit further away from downtown. Staying in a gorgeous old building like that was pretty incredible, especially because it is rather unassuming in the way that it has degraded a little over time. There is this curious little bar down the bottom called HMS Bounty. It all felt a little like living in a noir film or something.
My favourite building in Melbourne is the Manchester Unity building, for similar reasons – it gives me a glossy, nostalgic feeling. I remember looking up at it as a small child and thinking Batman could live in the tower. I’ve travelled up in the lifts as a teenager, wondering why the inside seems less glamourous, with just little offices. I imagined having a little studio there when I was in my early twenties.
I think most architecture that I really love somehow makes me feel as though I could access it in a fantasy version of life where rent wasn’t so high. Old buildings that are incredible outside, but seem a bit run-down inside. Otherwise buildings in the city make me feel so tiny, and like there is this capitalist beast that will always make me feel small.
JPIf there were no practical constraints, where would you live?
EMIf there were no practical concerns, I think I would be able to live in various places throughout my life, rather than feeling a bit stuck in Melbourne. I often feel as though Melbourne is a little claustrophobic when it comes to live music culture, and appreciation of various kinds of musical cultural practice. I look forward to living in LA. But when I get older, I’d prefer to live in a more rural setting, but on a continent that is more connected to the rest of the world.
JPWhat comes to mind when I say ‘the culture of living closer together’?
EMA lot! I think high-density living is an excellent goal – rather than urban sprawl. I think people taking up less property and less space on the earth is a logical choice. I think family models that have grown out of the 1950s need to be re-structured, so that people who are growing up in close proximity to other people all feel as though they’re surrounded by care and love, inside a community that interacts with respect towards everyone, rather than a small family scenario where secrets abound and people only feel as though they can be themselves inside the walls of their own home.
All of this would be contingent on there being a radical shift in the way culture at large perceives a lot of key differences in humanity such as gender and sexuality, neurology and mental health, cultural beliefs and practices, and power dynamics that oppress people. I have a lot of idealistic notions about how we can move forward to live in a way that makes more sense than what we are currently living.
But the key to all of those being possible is, first and foremost, preferencing every human’s right to make their own reality and identity – and ensuring that more people are financially stable enough to even begin to think about their own needs and identity. It will be interesting to see how cities and living spaces start to change shape when we start to preference the needs of all humans.
We cannot get enough of Evelyn’s mix – thank you for brightening up our winter! You can buy Evelyn Ida Morris directly from Milk! Records and thus support Melbourne’s independent music. If you care about feminism and social justice, LISTEN is an advocacy group that promotes the visibility and experience of women, gender non-conforming and LGBTQIA+ people, people of colour, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people with disabilities and other marginalised folk in Australian music. A big thank you also to Erik Jensen for the photos.
Jana Perkovic is an editor and scholar in urban design and policy innovation, currently with Melbourne Centre for Cities at University of Melbourne. She has previously worked at SPACE10, IKEA's innovation lab, and was editor of Assemble Papers 2017-2019. On the side, she covers the Australian performing arts - particularly physical and dance - for a variety of publications. She divides her time between Berlin, Copenhagen, Melbourne and her hometown in Croatia, which involves quite a lot of working on trains.