James is opting out. It had been in the making for some time now, but with his new EP “Stop Pretending” under his new moniker Default Genders, James Brooks, who previously made music as Elite Gymnastics, is officially denouncing his membership as a your average man in a patriarchic society. Well, I am sure that is not the right way to put it, and I apologize to James for framing his intentions in those words. (But gender issues are pretty complicated and I have neither put as much thought nor as much emotion in it as he has.) What I can say is that with this new EP, James has made a pretty personal statement in line with the track Andreja 4-Ever, which he put out last year and which was honoring the feminist Andrea Dworkin. His language is confrontationally direct again, to the point where I feel that I could really offend him by misrepresenting his ideas. But then again, this direct language is what ensures that he won’t be misunderstood. He could not be clearer when he says “If people talk shit and say ‘you’re not one of us’ / I guess we can stop pretending now that I ever was” or “This is why I wanted out”. He is fighting the good fight against misogyny and rape culture.
The political and personal nature of the EP makes it easy to only talk about words and intentions. But “Stop Pretending” offers a sonically interesting – and matching – experience, too. Nineties breakbeats, synths and a certain bleakness to the arrangement make the sound oscillate between defiance, openness and sadness, just like the lyrics. And those are front and center, contrary to the “Ruin EP” series he published as “Elite Gymnastics”, which sometimes lost itself in drone. But if you heard “Andreja 4-Ever”, you already knew which direction James was headed for. He is self-releasing this EP on his Bandcamp, and I wouldn’t put it past him that this is a statement too. By the way: The cover art is by his girlfriend Claire Boucher, who makes music as “Grimes”.