EMA - Past Life Martyred Saints
We've been excited about "Past Life Martyred Saints", the debut album from LA's EMA (Erika M. Anderson), since we heard "The Grey Ship" back in January, and with the release date almost here (9 May), we're relieved to report that the LP does not disappoint. It's rich, refreshingly complex, and darkly beautiful and most importantly not quite like anything else you're likely to hear released this year - or ever.
To describe the intricate nature of this album track by track would take a week, such is the density of idea and vision recorded on "Past Life Martyred Saints", so you'll have to hear it for yourself, but here is a quick rundown. Opening with "The Grey Ship", its 'Wizard of Oz' shift from monotone to Technicolour, a treat in store for those who haven't experienced it, listeners are transported to EMA's sonic world. "California" follows like some brilliant post-apocalyptic re-boot of U2's "Where The Streets Have No Name".
From here on in it's stuff we haven't heard before. "Anteroom" has a Kurt Cobain quality to it, a complete change of scenery to the previous two tracks. "Milkman" is different again, the track sounding as though it was constructed less organically, with industrial loops of pitch shifted, tonal guitar/organ noise. "Coda" shows the Americana element of EMA's musical genes with her overlayed vocals making a round. "Marked" and "Breakfast" are more linear in their structure - the more conventional songs on the album - yet still mesmerising, both with their ever widening scope toward the songs' conclusions.
"Butterfly Knife" is a darker, referring to the murder of a goth teenager, with disorientating layering vocals and guitar. "Red Star" brings the nine tracks to a close and demonstrates EMA's ability to change direction vocally, from longing whisper to soaring intensity.
EMA's skill as self producer here, is as important as her sublime vocal ability, guitar treatment and songwriting. Self taught, EMA doesn't seem to have rejected convention, it just seems she never needed it in the first place. The influences drawn upon are all good. There are obvious echoes of grunge era, blues, Americana/folk and shoegaze to name a few, but make no mistake, this is something exciting and new. Without doubt, "Past Life Martyred Saints" deserves to be regarded as one of the most important releases to come out of America in years.
EMA plays the following UK dates next month:
11 May - London, The Macbeth
12 May - London, Cargo
13 May - Manchester, Islington Mill
14 May - Brighton, The Great Escape