René Kladzyk is what used to be called a ‘Renaissance woman.’ You probably know her as Ziemba, the genre-resistant musician from Brooklyn, but she’s also a journalist, perfumer, social scientist, and feminist geographer. Even this list of titles fails to capture the full extent of her creative endeavors—a testament to both the breadth of her work and to the futility of defining her by occupation alone.
As Ziemba, she’s released two EPs and two LPs, a series of sonic-inspired fragrances, and a GPS-functional mapping project. As René Kladzyk, she’s published numerous essays and articles on everything from femme-owned record labels to the US/Mexico border, worked as a researcher in a spatial cognition lab, and earned a master’s degree in Geography and Gender Studies.
The concept of borders—regional, political, gendered—serves as the link between René and Ziemba. With the exception of her Brooklyn years, René has been a resident of border territories since childhood. She grew up in Forestville, Michigan, a 128-person town bordering Canada, before moving to El Paso, Mexico at age nine. After her father married a woman from the neighboring city of Juárez, she “became a Borderlander” or “fronterizo.” The violence and turmoil she witnessed in the region catalyzed her debut album Hope is Never, an eleven-track meditation on the dualities of destruction/recovery and grief/joy, self-released in 2016.
René has since moved back to Mexico where she works as a reporter at El Paso Matters. For the past six months, she’s covered Border Patrol, racial injustice, and the effects of COVID-19 on the El Paso community while working on her forthcoming third album, True Romantic.
For her Algorhythm, René reminisces on the dinner party where she discovered doo wop rock idol Dion and his 1975 record Born To Be With You.
I went to a dinner party at my friend Rahill Jamalifard's apartment in the Lower East Side of Manhattan a couple years ago. Rahill has great taste in music, she performs solo and in bands Habibi and Roya, and has worked at Academy Records for years, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised that, during that dinner party, she introduced me to what would become a beloved album for me. She put on the 1975 record Born to Be With You by Dion, an artist better known for his doo-wop hits in the late '50s and early '60s. Born to Be With You is loco and totally different, sonically, from the Gidget imagery that comes to mind when I hear the name Dion. The sound is massive, intricate and billowing, which makes sense since Phil Spector produced six of the eight tracks. I'm a sucker for melodramatic music, especially when it's simultaneously over the top and deeply heartfelt, and this is exactly that. Sweeping strings and cheesiest sax solos ornament gorgeously melancholy melodies and earnestly sentimental lyrics. It's so good.
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