Release Date: Oct 11, 2011
Record label: Ninja Tune
Genre(s): Electronic, Trip-Hop, Electronica, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Review Summary: Shockingly cathartic and frigid, but also shockingly brilliant, Emika's long awaited debut is a thing of fragile and, at times, dazed beautyUnstable might just be the best way to describe Emika's self-titled debut, and perhaps the artist as well. As her thoughts briefly chime in over the litany of clattering bass and broken beats you get a clear sense that perhaps not all is right here, that what may lie at the bottom of this particular rabbit hole might, in fact, bite back. And it's that kind of disguised and perceived violence that makes Emika such an intriguing listen, like watching a car crash unfold from a safe distance.
This long-gestating debut by Emika, a UK-born singer and producer of Czech origin currently residing in Berlin, is an intriguing work: dark, seductive and as hard to pin down as its creator. Her atmospheric sound, slow-burning and bass-heavy, owes a debt to Bristol, Emika's former home, and the influence of Portishead can be heard in her crystalline vocals, but it doesn't define her. Berlin has had an effect, too, and the care with which she has programmed the sonic landscape of tracks such as "Drop the Other" speaks of an immersion in that city's techno scene.
If you aren't familiar with Czech-born Berlin-based producer Emika from her own bass-heavy broodings on Ninja Tune, you might be familiar with her role as the disembodied voice in Tommy Four Seven's Primate, or as the one who provided the field recordings for Ostgut Ton's Funf compilation. With a winding musical history that stretches from the dubstep caverns of Bristol to the Berghain, the sound she's let trickle out on a steady series of singles is a parched take on dubstep equally influenced by trip-hop and techno, the hardcore continuum running through its ice cold veins in all its extant forms. You probably could have guessed that Emika works as a sound designer even if I hadn't told you; her music is painstakingly, well, designed, the kind of thing you could expect to soundtrack an installation as much as a club night.
The idea of a British-born, blue-eyed Berlinite turning Aaliyah's "Try Again" into an industrial-dub robot dirge seems pretty suspect. But somehow, 25-year old Bristol-bred Emika pulls off "Common Exchange" with flying Grisaille colors. Chalk its success up to the electronic composer/sound designer's belief that life and dance music alike are fatally boring when you stick to the blueprint.
Watching the music video for Emika’s debut single ‘Drop the Other’, it was clear that there was something special about Ninja Tune’s latest signee. Released early in 2010 the song is at once dark and playful, with its delicate female vocal sounding over a humming bass line and sinister piano. Emika features in the song’s video but her image is obscured, appearing only as a flickering picture on a grainy television set.
With everyone from Rihanna to Britney Spears now incorporating wobble basslines and syncopated beats into their polished pop sound, the dubstep scene has well and truly gone mainstream. Attempting to take it right back into the underground comes the self-titled debut album from Emika, a Czech born, U.K.-raised, and now Berlin-based former sound engineer, whose tension-filled soundscapes are unlikely to be jostling with recent chart-toppers Nero and DJ Fresh for the number one spot. Aptly self-described as a "beautiful nightmare," its fusion of ethereal melodies and hushed harmonies with avant-garde electronica and twitchy rhythms is indeed as enchanting as it is unsettling.
Emika is a hard one to pin down. Over the past few years, she has developed a sound that radiates around the perimeter of dub techno and pop, a combination that at times sounds like the post-millennial paranoia creeps of reborn trip-hop, fractured and dirty from being buried for over a decade. Originally hailing from Bristol, it’s like the latter music is in her veins, and it wouldn’t shock me to find out that many of these sonic similarities were unconsciously driven.
Disconcerting but bewitching debut from Berlin-based siren. Wyndham Wallace 2011 There’s something disturbing about 3 Hours, the opening track to Emika’s impressive eponymous debut album. Recalling The Crystals’ He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss), its chorus advises whoever she’s addressing to "Hit me when you wanna and I’ll take the blame / Hit me and I guarantee you’ll feel the same / Hit me if you think that it will help the pain / Hit me, hit me, hit me, hit me anyway.