Gina X Performance exists as a small footnote in the grand timeline of music history.
If some say that time exists as a flat circle, consider it as a vinyl record. Each rotation generates new sounds built upon the ones established in earlier spins, a creation of novel melodies formed from those before them. Musical history acts in much the same way, where sonic techniques and trends reappear at different intervals of time. A resurgence in disco and ‘90s-tinged R&B demonstrates this phenomenon in 2019. Genres circle back around like chokers and rom-coms. In the 40 years since its release, the sound of Nice Mover resurfaces every so often across a strange range of artists.
While circling around a vintage record and clothing store in the Netherlands, the cover of Gina X Performance’s Nice Mover caught my eye. Its confident yet playful stare resembled those of Grace Jones and Annie Lennox, both self-assuredly androgynous and sexual. It was enough to bring me to purchase the record, though I knew nothing of the group beforehand. At the time, I wondered if this gap in my knowledge constituted a major musical grievance. I’ve since found that it in fact is a gap, though through little fault of my own. Dedicated sonic historians might know of them, but my own research suggests that Gina X Performance exists as a small footnote in the grand timeline of music history.
The German group consisted of vocalists Gina Kikoine and Ralph Morgenstern, producer Zeus B. Held and drummer Lazlo Czigany, with Hinrich Sickenberger later joining the group in the ‘80s. Over the course of their less-than-a-decade formation, they released four albums total, though their debut remains their most famous release. That said, I think it deserves a bit more love. Not only does it still play well, but Nice Mover sounds both like its contemporaries and those who followed.
At only eight tracks, the album plays through in a little over a half hour. Held’s synthesized production conjures a tasteful club atmosphere around Kikoine, who sings and writes with a deliberate extravagance. The sophistication and indulgence work in tandem to form an excellently eccentric mix of synth pop, disco and R&B. By track two, I knew I’d found my throwback contender for Song of the Summer in “No G.D.M.,” its celebration of queerness a perfect find for the start of Pride Month: “You are perfect, you are sheer/ If you are a red-haired queer” is not a sentiment to question.
Listening to this and the rest of Nice Mover elicits remembrances of other acts with much higher profiles. “Exhibitionism” contains hints of the Knife’s weirdness, Vendredi sur Mer’s spoken-word disco and Daft Punk’s digitized vocals. Kikoine’s enunciation comes across as ridiculously campy, but honestly, no native English speaker can ever criticize another person’s aptitude for the English language, as the majority of the world speaks it for our convenience. On “Black Sheep,” you detect the exaggerated intonation of Björk, with the same proud peculiarity as well. Nice Mover, unapologetic in its moments of queerness or dissonance, captivates listeners with this brashness. It works for thinking as much as it does dancing, a fabulous pairing for a retrospective look.
In a season where LGBTQ culture lies on the forefront of many peoples’ minds, discovering Gina X Performance felt like an appropriate moment of fate for me. On top of expanding my knowledge of past musicians, Nice Mover introduced me to another remarkably brave figure from queer history. Like the synthesizers, it’s just another reason why this album makes me dance.