Armed with a battery of cheap electronics and a surplus of friendly theory, comes Anat Ben-David. Her mission is not only to entertain but to ask us, her audience, what we are really doing in listening to – that is, consuming – pop music. Virtual Leisure, the début album from the Israeli-born, London-based performance artist, is based on a grim paradox. Leisure, in her analysis, is a fabrication of employment practices, and, because it is so bound up by commercial imperatives, it doesn’t exist – it’s virtual. As Ben-David hymns, in her love song to one international brand: ‘I think we should go to Ikea again!’
There are very few people in the pop economy doing work like this. Peaches is one, Le Tigre and the Munich-based artists’ group Chicks on Speed, of whom Ben-David is a recent member, are two others.
For all its manifest seriousness, Virtual Leisure is an album shot through with a mordant humour: Ben-David uses electro pop in the same way that the Slovenian pranksters Laibach inhabit the stylings and bombast of rock music to make cultural points. As such, it’s rewarding to view this album in the light of Ben-David’s larger Popaganda project, which explores the links between the charismatic performer and the fascist dictator. Ben-David doesn’t quite pull it off. But while the vocals can seem thin – the cover of Marlene Dietrich’s ‘Nimm Dich in Acht vor blonden Frauen’ doesn’t really work – this level of inquiry is not only welcome but necessary.