I’ve been reading Sophie Calle’s “M’as-Tu Vue?” (“Do You See Me?”), a book that is entirely concerned with appearances & disappearances. The way that she tries to pin down chance, re-creating moments that never happened, taking the paths not followed, reminded me of Angela Conway, better known as AC Marias. Angela’s music took a similar approach —oblique strategies for a head-on world. Her haunting single, “One of Our Girls (Has Gone Missing)” has remained one of my favorite pieces of music ever since it was first released, back in 1989. The album continued her long-standing collaboration with Gilbert & Lewis of Wire, whom she’d worked with ever since her debut on their semi-legendary (and sadly out-of-print) collaboration P’O, back in 1980. She returned to offer vocal duties for the startling pair of releases the Wire compatriots completed as Dome (“1-2” & “3-4”).
She described her first single as “music to disappear to,” and she was enigmatic ever after, hiding behind the partially pseudonymous moniker “AC Marias” (Marias being her middle name) and describing herself as an “ex-babysitter, ex-girl, ex-traitor, on a mission to subvert the cretinous, moronic message of today’s music,” a statement she partially de-coded in a Melody Maker interview: “Ex-traitor I thought was quite funny, ‘cos there’s no such thing. Betrayal, whether it’s personal or political, sticks with you always. The ex-babysitter has two meanings: looking after somebody else’s kids, obviously, but it’s also spy slang for heavies who look after the defector in the safe house. I used to read that kind of John Le Carré spy fiction. I like the jargon. It’s intriguing.”
“Disappearance can be quite a powerful thing,” Conway said at the time of the title track, and later single. “To not be present can be more powerful than actually being present and proclaiming your identity as ‘woman’. That can be quite rigid, which is why people often say they don’t want to be categorised, because it can be confining.” The haunting video clip for the song (directed by Ms. Conway herself), followed a dancer through the countryside and far out to sea —an act of joyful abandonment that called to mind the bittersweet ending of Kate Chopin’s feminist novella “The Awakening.”
After that, AC Marias faded away, leaving Angela Conway the video director (who was responsible for clips for the Smashing Pumpkins, Nitzer Ebb, and McAlmont & Butler, among others). Whether she has any plans to return to music-making someday is a mystery, much like the woman herself.
AC Marias, “One of Our Girls (Has Gone Missing” [right-click-save-as, s’il vous plaît]
The Dome & AC Marias albums are available from Mutelibtech.
Photograph by Francesca Woodman.