It may be bleak and austere, but Erika M Anderson's second album is her most relatable work so far
Erika M. Anderson’s second album is notably more austere than her 2011 debut, ‘Past Life Martyred Saints’. “I remember when the world was divided by a wall of concrete and a cube full of iron”, she hoots over the clank and clutter of ‘Satellites’, ‘The Future’s Void’’s industrial opener. Addressing Russian surveillance over its neighbouring former Soviet states – brutally relevant in light of the Crimean crisis – ‘Satellites’ instantly distances its creator from the grungy upstart of ‘Past Life…’ This time, EMA shuts the door on personal recollections of youth and romance and only one song here – ‘So Blonde’ – revisits her familiar trashy lo-fi sound.
Instead, the former Gowns vocalist deals with universal themes of privacy invasion and technology’s ever-growing influence on human interaction. ‘Neuromancer’ attacks the share-all culture of social networking (“I know more than you do about the things that you do”), backed by a furious and metallic Nine Inch Nails rattle. ‘Solace’, meanwhile, has a bass-heavy techno undercurrent, with Anderson singing “We make constellations out of fallen stars” as though straining to see through the dense electronics. This shift to a starker, machine-led sound is in opposition to EMA’s easy way with a pop hook – a contrast that’s most effective on ‘Smoulder’, where her melodies scribble over the synthetic gridlines. These same melodies are given more freedom to roam on the sparse, string-tinged arrangement of ‘100 Years’, and they positively bloom amidst the swell of ‘3Jane’. The latter is a slow-burning torch ballad about the accelerated internet exposure she received for her last album and ‘The Future’s Void’’s most introspective song, containing the lament, “I feel like I blew my soul out across the interweb … it left a hole so big inside of me.”
These pockets of soul bearing act as tangible moments of emotion amongst the austerity, but also serve to highlight the weightiness of their surrounding environment. EMA has blogged that to make this record she’d “avoided almost all contact with the outside world”. How paradoxical that she’s returned with her most outward-looking work to date.
Simon Jay Catling