EMA is the solo project of singer/guitarist Erika M. Anderson, the former leader of “noise-folk” outfit Gowns. After their disbandment, Anderson released 2011’s Past Life Martyred Saints, a critically acclaimed expansion of her work in Gowns. Her new record, The Future’s Void, furthers the ideas explored on Past Life: moments of uncompromising noise and saccharine pop melodies meld to create an electroacoustic hybrid unlike anything else.
The Future’s Void opens with “Satellites”, an approximation of the different genres explored on the record’s most adventurous songs. In this case, we begin with a burst of white noise, before a sudden cut to a sinister, Carpenter-esque square wave drone. Next, some grimy handclaps and Anderson’s melodic post-Snowden call to arms: “open the satellites”. Finally, a series of clanging bell sounds, a dissonant melody that is undoubtedly influenced by the frontrunners of early 80s industrial as much as it is Nine Inch Nails. All this occurs in the first minute, and its an amazing feat on Anderson’s part that she can so easily make this melting pot of sound cohesive.
Equally impressive is Anderson’s willingness to abandon this nailing of the senses to meditate on one musical idea for an entire track. “So Blonde” is a straightforward, guitar-drums-vocals track, rooted in 90s alt-rock. Subversive yet playful, it mocks the ‘blonde stereotype’ in a way that is both empowering and fun. A “Never Said” for the millennial set.
There are points where the lyrical references touch on other creative works; specifically “3Jane” and “Neuromancer”, whose titles are borrowed from cyberpunk novelist William Gibson. The former’s lyrics harkens back to the opening track’s technological theme: “there should be a law about it, when they can take videos of you” and “feel like I blew my soul out across the interweb, and screamed”, ultimately coming to the conclusion that these feelings are “just a modern disease”. The track is made even more brooding by the music that surrounds: a slow building piano ballad that is so upilfting it could pass for a radio-ready pop song, were it not for the lyrics.
Future’s Void has all the elements of an important record. Stylistic changes that don’t feel forced, lyrics with real substance rooted in the now, and well written melodies that stick with you long after the album ends. It is Anderson’s best work to date.