CD: EMA - The Future's Void | reviews, news & interviews
CD: EMA - The Future's Void
CD: EMA - The Future's Void
Uncompromising songwriter takes on Big Data on an uncomfortably brilliant album
Erika M Anderson’s dystopian follow-up to 2011’s critically acclaimed Past Life Martyred Saints was always going to be prescient, but in the end even she was taken by surprise. “Facebook just bought the company that makes … the VR headset I am wearing on the cover of The Future’s Void,” she wrote on her blog a week or so back, by way of introduction to “3Jane”, the single that is the album’s "lyrical centrepiece". “People ask me about themes of paranoia on the record but obviously I am not the only one with dystopian dreams of our plugged-in future.”
If it seems hardly any time at all since we wrote about these same concerns in the context of St Vincent’s self-titled album, that’s because it hasn’t been, but if the rest of the world seems content to stick its head in the sand as the revelations stack up about what our governments have been making of our digitised data, is it any wonder that some of the most challenging contemporary songwriters are not? But where Annie Clark’s “Digital Witness” buried its paranoia under layers of joyous horns, the artist better known as EMA titles her equivalent “Neuromancer” and layers it with booming, apocalyptic drums and barely distinguishable, distorted vocals. Only the song’s central refrain - “they know … they know” - stands out. It is, in its own way, as powerful a message as the latently feminist attack on the exploitative in the tuneful slacker grunge of “So Blonde” (see video overleaf); or the surprisingly straightforward closing track “Dead Celebrity”.
On “Satellites”, Anderson might just be satirising how quickly some of the most significant moments of history - “when the world was divided by a wall of concrete and a curtain of iron” - now get reduced to memes, on a piece of industrial electronica that’s ultimately more catchy than it has any right to be. These themes are revisited on “100 Years”, where a delicate performance reduces real history - phonographs and “flying machines”, epidemics and war - to something as ephemeral as the rest of the album’s virtual reality. “Smoulder” is ominously pretty and overtly sexual, a last desperate attempt to grab onto something real. The Future’s Void is an uncomfortable, challenging album - but no less worthy of your time for that.
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