Having teased us with a new track 'Satellites' last month, released to rave reviews and scoring Pitchfork's Best New Music ("The most bracing thing yet from an artist already more bracing than most"), EMA has confirmed details of her highly anticipated second album 'The Future's Void', to be released on 7 April via City Slang.
EMA has also revealed the self-directed video for 'Satellites', in which she uses tech effects that she says are either "primitive or sophisticated, depending on your point of view". This is coupled with an interactive "nightmare media" cube on her website, featuring a slow-motion fake-plant fetish and the only footage on the internet that shows the true nature of cats.
Erika M. Anderson first graced the limelight under the guise of EMA in May 2011, when the brilliantly scuffed debut album 'Past Life Martyred Saints' was released to a multitude of acclaim. After having spent time in the California underground fronting the genre-defying cult duo Gowns with Ezra Buchla, 'Past Life Martyred Saints' offered a deeper glimpse into the world of EMA. An absorbing and ambitious masterpiece that revealed a unique and feed-backed noisy guitar style, a skill for visceral songwriting and a DIY recording ethos, it showcased a distinctive sonic signature that sounded like nothing else around.
If Past Life Martyred Saints was an inward exploration of human relationships and their toll, The Future's Void catapults them out into space, both thematically and musically. The album meditates on universal themes of how we interact with the wider world and how that interaction is increasingly modified by technology. Through collaboration with Leif Shackelford on production duties, the sound of this record reflects these themes and instead of using electronics to create a polished, airless environment, Anderson's techno-future thrashes strongly between harsh tones and paranoia, to beautiful colour bursts and mellow guitar strums.
Lyrically, Anderson tries to answer the question so often put to her during the last round of press and interviews: "How does it feel?" to be pushed through a media vortex and back. The answer is of course, complicated. On '3Jane' she seems plaintive and introspective, with lyrics about visuals and consent that are even more poignant in the age of posted youtube assaults, bullied teen suicides and revenge porn. On 'Neuromancer', an electronic punk rant with analog synths and machine drums, she rages, and explores the implications of building an online database of all your pictures and information. "It's basically an AI (artificial intelligence)" she says. And it's not just those in the media spotlight who have them, it's all of us.
This is where Anderson has always excelled, in taking the chaos and angst of the modern age and making it relatable. While sonically The Future's Void is a big step up and out, lyrically it's in a similar vein to Past Life Martyred Saints, with EMA herself laying bare, cracking sly jokes, and making the nuances of her story seem like ours as well.
The Future's Void is a record that seeks to deal with the fact that certain ideas that once seemed futuristic are now the norm, while also trying to sidestep a lot of the musical tropes that come along with exploring technology. It straddles the ugly and animalistic, the pretty and civilised, the digital and the analog and the past and the present, resulting in a timeless and yet timely piece of work. And like any great punk record, it questions social convention and rebels against the status quo.
EMA continues to evoke a unique and ambitious sound that saw her rightfully recognised as one of the most singular artists to emerge in 2011, and is likely to send her back into the public consciousness once again in 2014.
When She Comes