EP: EMA – ‘Outtakes from Exile’

Sitting comfortably in what she calls “The Outer Ring” of society – the zone between the country and the city, both literally and figuratively – EMA’s dark electronic sounds ooze with an unease and intensity inspired by “material that speaks truth to power.” Rather than agonise, Erika M. Anderson (aka EMA) organises synths and vocals to express her resistance against poverty and inequality, and her recent EP Outtakes From Exile is another impressive example of these determined efforts.

Lead single ‘Dark Shadows’ ia a blend of hazy vocals, sharply produced beats and opulent electronics, inspired by the film 20th Century Women. Anderson says she was inspired by the premise – “badass women living in 1970s Santa Barbara getting into punk” – and ‘Dark Shadows’ emerged as “a survivor song”, detailing someone who’s “leaving a dark past behind, emerging again into the world”. It’s a world in which second track ‘MopTops (Twist While The World Stops)’ plays out confidently, with EMA’s hushed, croaky vocals sitting atop steady synths that loop for three and a half minutes.

‘I Don’t Treat Anything Good’ is similar in its understated style and tempo, but it culminates in EMA’s plea-like vocals to be saved from this casual apathy. The emotional exposure on penultimate track ‘From The Love That We Made’ will have listeners caught up in a sultry, synth-heavy haze before an unexpected switch from electronics to acoustic guitars mid-way through the song clears the figurative smoke screen.

It’s the defiant power of closing track ‘Breathalyzer Instrumental’ however, that truly displays EMA’s ominous, shadowy skills. It’s twenty minutes of intriguing noise which broods somewhere between intense awareness and a need to be aurally anesthetised. Whilst her vocals on previous tracks are quietly hypnotic, the lack of them here is not to be lamented. Ten minutes in, her almost inaudible whisperings appear over persistent synths, offering a brief distraction from this epic, intoxicating sonic assault.

Make sure you set aside the time to explore EMA’s intriguing soundscapes on Outtakes From Exile – you won’t be disappointed.

EMA’s Outtakes From Exile (released via City Slang) is available to stream/download now.

Kate Crudgington