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EMA: The Future’s Void

Given the increased amount of noise (or rather, NOISE, as in: howling feedback, tortured screams, metallic bass tones, blast beats etc.) in music circa 2014 – creeping in at the edges of everything from punk (Perfect Pussy) and post-punk (Swans) to metal (Indian), hip hop (Clipping) and techno (Actress) – one might have reasonably expected the second album from Erika M. Anderson to be a much dirtier, much uglier record than it actually is: Anderson, of course, started out in West Coast noise scene darlings Gowns, and her debut as EMA – 2011’s Past Life Martyred Saints – attracted something of a cult following by playing to previously proven strengths, coating freaked-out folk and gothic blues alike in multiple layers of dark, abrasive scuzz. Whilst still seriously noisy, much of The Future’s Void (out April 8 via Matador/City Slang) utilises a cleaner, less blown-out sound palette than that of its predecessor, Anderson and her producer/ musical partner Lief Shackelford marching out of step with the pack to a combination of crisp electronic beats and real percussion, sparse piano lines and glassy synths that dazzlingly offset the fuzz and skree of the set’s more industrial elements. With many of its lyrics focusing on our relationship with technology, specifically our online existence and very public private lives (“I blew my soul out across the interwebs” sings Anderson on “3Jane“), the man/ machine musical accompaniment often makes The Future’s Void feel like some kind of cyberpunk concept album, part cautionary science fiction fable, part realisation that it’s actually too late: there are already “Satellites” everywhere, the only good celebrity these days is a “Dead Celebrity”, Big Brother really has been watching us all along and now he’s using our secrets to destroy us. It’s a scary world we’re living in, full of post-Snowden paranoia and reeking of uncertainty (even the album title is confusing: how can the future be incorrect if it hasn’t happened yet? Or does it mean that the future IS a void, i.e. non-existent?) and Anderson’s not afraid to admit it, but if she sometimes sounds a little downhearted (“Smoulder”, the hushed, Yo La Tengo-esque “When She Comes”), more often than not she just sounds plain fierce; above all, especially on tracks like the clanging “Neuromancer” and Linda Perry-like pop-grunge anthem “So Blonde”, she sounds defiantly human, a Sarah Connor for our times fighting for flesh and blood whilst begrudgingly harbouring a soft spot for the electronic enemy. That noise you can hear, over the war drums and the deafening chaos? That’s Erika M. Anderson, calling out the future; the future should be very afraid. Check out “Satellites” below, and stream the album in full via NPR.
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About foamhands

My name is Michael Dix; I'm a decade or so past being down with the kids, but to me new music never gets old. Apparently I like music that sounds like faulty kitchen appliances and ritual slaughter; really I just like what I like, whether that happens to be indie, pop, punk, hip hop, metal, electronica, Afrobeat or jazz. Follow me on Twitter @FoamHandsBlog to receive notifications of new posts and the occasional random brain-fart, and please share links wherever you can. Enjoy!

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