Release Date: Apr 8, 2014
Record label: Matador
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Neo-Psychedelia
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Disillusionment with digitisation is rapidly becoming one of the most prominent themes of 2014. St. Vincent and Angel Haze have supplied their tidbit of irritation, the new My Sad Captains concentrates unilaterally on the disconnectedness intrinsic in social media consumption, and even Wild Beasts touched upon it (essentially because they touched upon everything in Present Tense).
William Gibson-a founding father of the now-classic science-fiction subgenre called cyberpunk-has said that SF strain has become a "standard Pantone shade in pop culture. " (The question of cyberpunk's fate had been posed to him in a fantastic Motherboard article by SF critic-and YACHT member-Claire Evans. ) In the mid-'90s, real-life technology began to catch up with a lot of what classic cyberpunk had envisioned, and the genre was gradually subsumed into sci-fi's wider arena.
“I don’t want to put myself out and turn it into a refrain” – EMA, “3Jane”. Erika M Anderson’s debut album Past Life Martyred Saints was an extremely personal, extremely open look at her past covering subjects such as self harm, domestic violence and, as a displaced South Dakotan, honest looks at her adopted home state of California. This time around, on her second album as EMA, she’s addressing the here and now.
It can be hard to feel like an individual in 2014. For anyone trying to be heard above the din, it’s easy it is to feel simultaneously anonymous and ubiquitous in the era of social media. Everyone wants to make a living doing what they love and nowadays that doesn’t just mean selling your art or your labor, it means selling yourself. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, autographs, interviews, retweets—it’s easy for life to become a never-ending album-cycle of self-promotion with art, commerce and personal life bleeding together and eventually spitting out some bizarre avatar of “you”.
Erika M. Anderson isn't comfortable and she doesn't want you to be, either. With her latest record, The Future's Void, the artist known as EMA channels her nerves about the Internet into a strong statement about the way we've lost ourselves to the information superhighway.
Is EMA's "So Blonde" the most 1994 song of 2014? Erika M. Anderson, a punk-rock daughter of South Dakota, yowls about lost youth in the big city ("Livin' underground like I don't know what to fear/Barely survived my 27th year"), with guitar chords that could give you third-degree grunge burns. Anderson's excellent second album builds on the stark confessional style of her low-fi 2011 debut, Past Life Martyred Saints, exploring piano ballads ("3Jane") and industrial rants ("Neuromancer") about social-media paranoia.
There were few more arresting songs in 2011 than EMA's California, a track taken from her solo debut, Past Life Martyred Saints. It started with ersatz thunder and lightning, a link to Erika M Anderson's recent past playing in uncompromising drone bands. "Fuck California, you made me boring," she spat, Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon reincarnated as a 6ft South Dakotan.
Erika M. Anderson’s low-slung guitar, angered floor-staring and generally ace DIY songwriting allowed the LA singer an unlikely breakthrough back in 2011. ‘Past Life Martyred Saints’, her introverted debut album, was incredibly personal, at times heart-rending, and focused on defected human relationships. Somehow, it caught on.
EMA is cool. It’s an established fact. She has big, fat storm clouds in her eyes. She’s brooding and sloppy and humid and careless, and she seems to be making up all her own rules. She’s both really distracted and really direct — too far, too close — placeless, in a way, or maybe just ….
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.
The internet surveillance themes on the second solo album by EMA (aka Erika M. Anderson) were inspired in part by the flood of attention she got for her 2011 debut, Past Life Martyred Saints, after a more obscure earlier career as half of noise-folk duo Gowns. Unfortunately for her, the brilliantly mangled pop sensibilities of The Future's Void will likely push her even further into the public eye.
Erika M Anderson’s debut album Past Life Martyred Saints was a difficult listen. A rewarding, phenomenal album, most certainly, but at times the personal nature of its content made for a tough ride. It was an album that worked as a whole; yet take the songs out of that context and they didn’t seem to function quite as well. It is perhaps not entirely surprising then, that part of EMA‘s reasoning for The Future’s Void was to “keep the songs from being advertisements”.
A line on a short a capella song called “Coda”, from EMA’s 2011 album Past Life Martyred Saints, goes like this: “I looked on the computer/ And it just was an emptiness that/ Made me want to throw up on the spot. ” On Past Life, Erika M. Anderson sings noise-drenched songs about grey ships and blue scars and red pants that hide menstrual blood and drugs that make her so sad that she can’t stop taking them, but that brief moment is slightly jarring because you don't necessarily picture the narrator in these visceral and harrowing scenes sitting in front of a computer.
The Future’s Void sounds like it’s the most deliberate music that EMA has ever made. It’s easy to imagine the West Coast artist’s 2011 studio debut, Past Life Martyred Saints, unfurling as a single jam: Each song bleeds into the next, while lyrical motifs recur effortlessly. One song, “Marked”, was actually laid to tape at the precise moment it was being written.
'Came outta nowhere' was the name of Erika M Anderson’s old website (now redirecting to TheFuturesVoid. net) and while it could have been a fragment of a number of stories drifting through EMA's soundworld (a drunk driver’s excuse… the loser in a barfight explaining his black-eye… an alien abductee waking in a ditch) the ironic redneck routine masked a real pride in making it out alive from a Red State, South Dakota, with all the guns and emptiness and bigotry that entails. So, while Past-Life Martyred Saints was a rallying cry for anyone "small town and gay" or who’d "never seen the ocean / never been on a plane" it was wary of what might unite people: "I looked on the computer… all I saw was emptiness".
You don't come across debut albums like EMA's very often. Erika M. Anderson—who left the West Coast noise scene, which dismissed her “sing-songy shit,” in order to record said shit under her initials—didn't arrive fully formed so much as startlingly direct. Past Life Martyred Saints laid bare physical and spiritual crises in ways few other artists ever have.
opinion bySAMUEL TOLZMANN < @scatlint > Erika M. Anderson’s astonishing, chastening 2011 solo debut Past Life Martyred Saints turned intimacy into a form of punishment, both for her touchingly realized characters and her captive listeners. Intensely insular, almost myopically focused on the inner workings of dependence (on persons, drugs) and abuse (of persons, drugs), the broadest PLMS ever skewed was the much-quoted line, “Fuck California!” But Anderson wasted no time reining “California” in and bringing her wholesale rejection of the state back down to a paradoxically more comfortable, claustrophobically personal level: “You made me boring!” The closest sonic sibling to “California” on her sophomore outing, The Future’s Void, is “Solace,” which also commences in widescreen – “From the gulleys of Atlanta to the plains states where we pray, I can measure all the distance by the way she says my name” – but doesn’t relinquish that sense of grandiosity or expanded geography.
EMA's debut album, Past Life Martyred Saints, was so furious, so gentle, and so genuine that it probably couldn't be repeated. Wisely, Erika M. Anderson doesn't try to on The Future's Void. Instead, she moves her focus outward, exploring the possibilities, and dangers, of a constantly online world and its impact on a person's sense of self.
When the fireworks gently pop and fizzle out in the last breath of EMA’s new album, it feels like the only way to close such an emotionally visceral set of songs. It’s a moment of release on a record focused so intensely on what it means to live in a culture in the throes of technology and information overload. On “The Future’s Void,” EMA (an acronym for the artist’s full name, Erika M.
On her second album as EMA, Erika M. Anderson makes an impassioned case against oversharing. That may seem like an odd reversal for a singer-songwriter who trafficked in confessionals, real or perceived, on 2011’s Past Life Martyred Saints, an album that volunteered the story behind every scar on its wrists, but Anderson is hardly the first musician to pull back after experiencing the blowback of the spotlight.