Dark and Powerful
Enigmatic electronic artist EMA (Erika M. Anderson) has a knack for choosing strikingly appropriate titles for her songs and albums. The Future’s Void, her third album, teeters on the edge of a syntactical abyss: it’s either a depressingly cynical statement (the future is void), or a possessive, a taking hold and a staking out of unexplored, unknowable territory (the void of the future). It seems she chooses the latter, filling the void of the unknown with a haunting, memorable soundtrack sure to plague your dreams.
The album begins with the spacey “Satellite,” an eerie, pulsing bass drawing you in between bursts of static, thumping ominously below Anderson’s urgent, anguished vocals. A percussive beat and distorted low keys, somewhat reminiscent of Grimes (but much darker), build to a fever pitch. “Smoulder” does exactly what its name implies: a spare beginning, with movie dialogue and light, insistent keys, is disrupted by a crash of industrial percussion and synths, Anderson’s smoky voice cracking and hissing, hazy through layers of distortion. It slowly burns and builds, hovering on the cusp of a climactic moment, but never quite giving in. “Cthulu,” likely named after the H.P. Lovecraft creation, evokes the haunting, dark plains and badlands of Anderson’s native South Dakota with minor synths, somber guitar riffs and eerie choral vocals.
The most interesting thing about The Future’s Void, though, is its stylistic variety. EMA crosses the genre lines of electro, indie-folk, ’90s grunge, and pseudo-country. Both “So Blonde” and “Neuromancer” have noticeably different genre elements. “So Blonde” is the most traditional song on the album, by far, with a standard guitar-driven verse and slightly grungy vocals. “Neuromancer” has rough percussion with a folksy edge and a rolling, rambling beat. “I’m Lucifer / I will survive,” Anderson cries, over and over above pounding drums. And the closing track, “Dead Celebrity,” sounds creepily reminiscent of a colonial military march, militiamen and redcoats and all.
This album shows EMA branching out to new genres, taking the devastating, smack-you-in-the-soul emotional import of her 2011 sophomore album Past Life Martyred Saints and pushing it in new directions. Her experimentation might not be entirely unprecedented—she was, after all, a member of both Amps for Christ and the short-lived noise-folk band Gowns—but EMA delights all the same, and she’ll be an artist to continue to watch.