Some albums defy space, time and whatever intergalactic studio they were recorded in. Some albums push and embody musical boundaries, taking sound to its very limit without making the process seem try-hard or even deliberate. Some albums leave in their wake utter devastation, combined with an intoxicating realisation of beauty. 2014 doesn’t deserve such an album. EMA has given it to us anyway, in the form of her sophomore album The Future’s Void.
Last time we saw the Portland based musician formally known as Erika M Anderson, she was grinning coyly in the direction of a sell out audience at the Great Escape in 2011. The set was in support of her debut album Past Life Martyred Saints. Of the same year, it offers a loved albeit underground homage to the soundboard. Wrapping fairy lights around her (momentarily) brunette head and idly kicking shards of glitter ball away from her exit, it seemed to be an iconic moment in her career. Not so. The velocity at which this artist currently speeds makes such a triumph seem as insignificant as cornflakes. EMA has got the world in her pocket and on The Future’s Void, she’s shaking it up.
In a way, this album is groundbreaking because it addresses previous flaws. Anderson was half way to sonic heaven on her debut, hawking over spacious synth and handclaps in a way only previously associated with devil worshipping. In 2014 she fills in the blanks, literally, with stellar composition and a bunch of killer hooks. For example, few tracks on The Future’s Void are comparable to the unholy chaos of “Breakfast” or the slacker drawl of “Butterfly Knife”. Fans of EMA’s experimental side needn’t fear for the sanctity of their saviour. The Future’s Void is far from commercial; it just makes a lot more sense.
The resulting sensation is like being swept off your feet and dangled in the air, while some celestial being squawks at you and hits the nearest clank-y thing. Standout tracks change with every listen, but “Cthulu” proves particular effective in its ambition to make me resemble a mad woman coming out of hibernation for the first time in three years. That’s since the release of Past Life Martyred Saints, in case you were counting. Elsewhere singles “So Blonde”, “Satellites” and “3Jane” don’t drop the ball for a minute, whooping and whacking merry hell out of sound techniques while also sticking a middle finger up in the direction of mediocrity. It’s never too much, and there’s always more to come.
The biggest achievement however, comes at the end of The Future’s Void. By the time “Solace” and “Dead Celebrity” enter the room, you realise you’re listening to something that’s… y’know… pretty. There’s fragility to EMA’s voice and she’s not afraid to show it, but more poignantly, the album connects with its listener. It infects the skin and does funny things to the brain, but it also cuddles the heart. It’s a heart-warming sensation regardless of the level of innovation and musical prowess at play. All combined, The Future’s Void is totally, totally essential. Play it loud.
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It's been three years since we last heard from US electro-chanteuse Erika M. Anderson on her 20111 album 'Past Life Martyred Saints' and it's good to know that she hasn't drifted too far from her default position of creating sombre sit-up-and-listen sepulchral anthems. There is more than enough room in the World for one more talented night creature. I, for one, am glad about this. Darkness definitely becomes her.
This collection of ten new songs finds Ms Anderson in fine voice. It is a dramatic full-bodied instrument with the capacity to both warm and chill the blood in our veins in equal measure.
From the grinding opening urban hymn 'So Blonde', through the more gentle and surprisingly touching '3 Jane' and '100 Years'; to far sterner stuff in the shape of numbers like 'Cthulu' and 'Neuromancer', she never loses her grip on this singularly affecting sonic vision.
'The Future's Void' doesn't deliver too many smiley moments but as an effort in sustained melancholy the album takes a lot of beating.
So far, my favourite album of 2014 - electronic and traditional 'rock' sounds blended to form something that sounds unique. For once the bands and groups you can pick out as influences are just that - influences to give inspiration rather than to be slavishly copied. It sounds different to anyone else out there and it's great. Buy it.