~~~ by Ana Roxanne, (2019)
Moving Through Stillness with Ana Roxanne, by Harry Lindsey
Artist's Pronouns: She/Her
“Why has the pleasure of Slowness disappeared?” Ana Roxanne asks, via a sample of Milan Kundera, on their 2019 EP ~~~. Another question Ana has raised exists on their Instagram, “Is it still considered a thirst trap if u don’t identify with your body?”
These questions exist far apart. ~~~ was released quietly on Roxanne’s bandcamp page in 2015, unbeknownst to anyone due to the artist’s own shyness. The second question was asked on December 6th, 2018 in an Instagram caption that pondered how Ana is seen in public spaces. Having come out as Intersex only a handful of posts prior, it is easy to assume the public existence of her identity was a present thought in those 2018 months.
Despite their distance, the questions seem threaded together by ~~~. There is a feeling of intention from Ana Roxanne on this EP, an intention to use stillness as a way to transform. To use “repetition as a form of change,” as her Instagram bio quotes. The quiet recording and release of ~~~ feels like a private world that Roxanne has been able to open up to us because of Leaving Record’s 2019 re-release of the project. It is as if the stillness of her work moves.
Movement, allowed by an embrace of stillness is a duality that shapes ~~~. There is a desire to unearth something generative within the still of her soundscapes, the possibility of a clarity in the ambient haze. It creates a potent feeling of both; there is something in the nothing of the still.
While coming out is in-part a stepping into the present, Instagram posts are somewhat of a grimey window to consider someone’s present reality through. There is no clarity there. Instagram personas present a filter-warped fuzz of reality. And, as many queer, trans and intersex people know, coming out never exists simply as the first time you announce it online. Attempting to gain a knowledge of Ana Roxanne, through music or Instagram posts, is a foolish and, perhaps, even invasive endeavor that I hope it does not seem I am embarking on.
Instead, I want to imagine ~~~ as a window. A window into a time when Ana needed stillness, creating these soundscapes as environments to exist in, outside of linear time. Instead, choosing to reside in immortal, slow and nocturnal valleys of self-made reflection, shimmering and sparkling within the peace. Immortalized in a calm blue, Ana’s portrait on ~~~’s cover stares directly at us. It is an invitation to other worlds.
Beginning with Immortality, Ana’s voice calls us in over a murmuring, choral synth. She speaks to us; “I was only dreaming, a past encounter resurfacing, from deep violet water,” as if her past was approaching her from a great depth. The following tracks desire slowness, expressed through the noted sample of Czech writer Milan Kundera, and then Ana commits to the still, rainy environment of the ‘Cosmic Shore,’ as if giving herself to the violet water of her past.
There is a clear narrative across the waves of ~~~, one of quiet contradictions. Time is warped across Ana’s ambient planes to interrogate the past in a present stillness, hoping to move into a changing future. There is a quiet queering of time here, for Ana revels in a non-linear expression of self that refuses the constraints of normative, structural time. The still and the nocturnal are presented as more generative sites than daytime, a time typically associated with the movement of work and production.
The EP’s ask for stillness expanded passed it’s 2015 solitude to become a beloved 2019 release among many. The near-half a decade growth of ~~~’s exposure exhibits the duality between private and public that is at the heart of the EP. The environments Ana created become ones of both refuge and expansion, mimicking the journey the songs took from being solitary worlds to shared ones.
Moving with and passed the reflective centerpiece of “Nocturne,” Ana becomes her most expansive. On “I’m Every Sparkly Woman,” Ana finds a space for her own empowered femininity. Covering Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman,” Roxanne claims her femininity in a realm preluded by timelessness. “It’s all in me,” she sings triumphantly over glittering synth lines, with the assurance that time and whatever it brings, or has brought, cannot take her femininity away.
~~~ concludes with waves, washing over distant R&B, warm family chatter and wind chimes, all contributing to a vivid, familial environment. The “deep violet water” seems shallower now, eased by both the solitude and communion Ana has participated in across the EP’s run time.
There is the potential to interpret the generative stillness of ~~~ as a quietly radical approach to the reproduced idea of “the closet”. Many queer, trans and intersex people are presumed to of lived closeted lives at some point in their story. Although, intersex experiences are often so erased, by both heteronormativity and the more prominent voices of the LGBTQIA community, that the notion of “coming out of the closet” becomes warped, as often, people are completely unaware of what it means to identify as intersex. Such an announcement becomes one that often needs the space to reflect upon before communicating.
The solitude and stillness Ana welcomes strives to exist outside of linear-time, perhaps to express a broadening of “the closet,” into a space without constraint or isolation. Instead, becoming a site of deep, fulfilling reflection. Ana Roxanne does not drown in the water and waves of ~~~, she looks into the water, reflecting into her past, present and future with the intent of an emergence. While there are traces of a “coming-out” narrative here, Roxanne carefully arranges something broader than that, something that is more than a digestible narrative. Her narrative, instead, revels deeply in the questions she raises.
On ~~~, Ana Roxanne takes the time to become both the questions and answers she needed. Through a commitment to nurturing the fruit of stillness, Ana created environments to exist in peacefully, enabling a transformation that expanded past her own solitude. She was moved from the stillness of “Immortality,” “Slowness” and “Nocturne”, into the personal empowerment of “I’m Every Sparkly Woman” and the peaceful communion of “In a Small Valley.” These environmental soundscapes contained such quiet power that they moved out of isolation, becoming shared with us. Now we are able to rest into the small valleys, waves and hazes of her work for our own transformations.
Familiar narratives and an understanding of identity feel bound to the work. But the works’ own boundlessness allows us to move beyond that. No matter what these environments mean or meant to Ana, they are ours now too. Having moved far beyond the solitude of their initial stillness, the worlds of ~~~ have become shared with us to stop, be still and breathe into the slow too.