Bonfire Madigan

Country: 
USA
About artist / group: 

The voice of Madigan Shive and her unique articulation and style – that encompasses everything from hard punk rock and experimentation with vocal techniques to purely ethereal song – instantly draws the attention of the listener. Using the strings of her favourite instrument – the cello, which in her skilled hands can create a pizzicato buzz or echo in new dimensions – the composer, cellist and singer Madigan creates an especially exhilarating sound, a mixture of acoustic punk, rock and folk, so-called chamber punk. Her compositions offer the softness of imaginary and moody acoustic journeys, accompanied by rebellious and subversive rhythms, or transport us to (free) jazz waters. The atmosphere of music flaring on Madigan Bonfire also extends from minimalist and subtle to more complex sound textures or exclusively punk riffs.

Madigan, better known as Bonfire Madigan, first surfaced at the age of 16 when she formed the duo Tattle Tale, a first generation riot grrrl bands from Seattle. From here she established her own label, Moonpuss, and in 1995 issued the solo seven-inch Plays with Herself. Together with bassists Sheri Ozeki and Tomas Palermo she formed Bonfire Madigan in San Francisco in 1998, with a debut single released under the legendary Kill Rock Stars label which also issued albums by Erase Errata, Numbers, Stereo Total, Xiu Xiu and Deerhoof. Expanding with bagpipes, theremin, synthesizer, piano and a series of other instruments – including a number that were homemade – the trio became a quintet, and in 2000 – again under the Kill Rock Stars label – issued Saddle the Bridge. The line-up of the Bonfire Madigan chamber ensemble has evolved gradually, while Madigan herself has regularly collaborated in projects involving more than a dozen musicians, feeling at home with each of them. At the same time she has composed film music as well as scores for documentary and feature films.

The intro/retro-spective mix disc entitled Madigan I Bleed: A Decade of Song, was released in 2004. That same year she supported Laibach’s US tour, and thus appears in Sašo Podgoršek's 2005 documentary Divided States of America (2005). In the Civil Disobedience Handbook: A Brief History and Practical Guide for the Politically Disenchanted, James Tracy refers to her as a “herald of changes in the world”, and her music “the soundtrack to a thousand revolutions”. After her San Francisco performance at the Noise Pop Festival some blogger dubbed her Tom Waits' and Björk's bastard child. And he wasn't all that far from the truth, though at the same time Madigan can, without hesitation, be attributed her own originality, imagination, musical talent and persuasiveness by way of which she has captured many an audience. Madigan's uncompromising activism as well as her dedication to music – and its message – raze and liberate.
Helena Božič

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