Monday, 7 April 2014
EMA - The Future's Void album review
Erika M. Anderson A.K.A EMA's debut album Past Life Martyred Saints was a modern classic in my opinion. All throughout it's nine tracks there was a strong sense of sonic identity and immense attention to detail; every sound and every effect had a purpose. She embraced her past experience in the noise music scene (as the front woman of Gowns) by incorporating harsh beats and brash effects on her vocals whilst still retaining a keen ear for melody and even pop sensibility at times, specifically on the standout track 'Milkman'. Her audaciousness wasn't just limited to the sound itself though, the lyrics were also extremely personal and honest, particularly on the track 'California' which reads like a poem which confronts prejudice and rebels against conformism ( the lyric 'Fuck California, you made me boring', being most prominent). On the follow-up she signed with indie giant City Slang and has created an album which is equally powerful, yet is also her most accessible and accomplished work to date.
Perhaps the best opening track of 2014 so far; 'Satellites' is best described as a apocalyptic battle-cry, the pounding drums alongside Erika's blood curdling roars set the tone for the album perfectly. Like on her debut, she utilizes her noise roots to create theatrical stompers like 'Cthulu' and 'Neuromancer'. The Future's Void is dominated by themes such as Surveillance, society's obsession with social media, technology and human vulnerability; big topics which are tackled in a big way. Cthulu's progressive vocal chants come to an explosive climax with arresting synth beats and soaring guitars. 'Makin a livin off taking selfies off takin selfies, is that the way that you want to be?', she chants on the menacing 'Neuromancer', backed by an intense tribal instrumentation. Penultimate track 'Solace' is also a standout, Erika's soft vocal delivery juxtaposes a throbbing synth baseline, the vocal break down at the end of this track acts as one of the albums more uplifting moments.
However there is more to The Future's Void than just industrial folk-rock epics, like on her debut there is a fair share of intimate, reflective moments like the stunning track '3Jane', which sports one of the album's lightest instrumentals. The song's real strength is in it's lyrics, it references a 'modern disease', the symptoms of which include being paranoid about how you're being perceived online and disassociation from reality through your internet self. This sentiment is particularly poignant bearing in mind that we all suffer from this 'disease' to some extent. 'Smoulder' does exactly what it says on the tin, the throbbing baseline oozes out of your speakers like lava, gradually consuming you entirely - it's utterly entrancing. The tracks 'So Blonde' and 'When She Comes' are the least synth-laden tracks on the record, both mostly guitar led. Arguably, this is Erika's best format as it exhibits her knack for melody and subtle pop hooks. Hopefully she'll explore this side to her sound further in her future work.
Despite every track on The Future's Void being excellent in it's own way, there is certainly a divide in tone; one part consists of pounding, theatrical epics such as 'Satellites', 'Cthulu' and 'Solace' and the other of intimate and vulnerable tracks like '3Jane', 'Smolder' and the closing track 'Dead Celebrity'. And then there are two anomalies; 'So Blonde' stands alone as a perfect slice of grunge-pop and 'When She Comes' presents a subtle melody which proves to be an unexpected ear worm. What is clear is that EMA has comes leaps and bounds since her debut. She has maintained her rawness (like her debut The Future's Void was completely home-recorded), yet has created a record which is richer and more innovative than I could have ever imagined. If Past Life Martyred Saints was her breakthrough from the underground, The Future's Void should propel her into the stratosphere.
Best Tracks: So Blonde, 3Jane, Cthulu, When She Comes, Solace