Matador Records has the knack for signing incredibly talented and unique artists like Erika M. Anderson, aka EMA. She releases The Future’s Void hot on the heels of the success of her debut Past Life Martyred Saints. This album is an enormous step up from her previous effort in terms of what she does sonically. With Lief Shackelford at the helm for production duties, EMA launches into what she calls “the sound of resistance to digital commodification.” The Future’s Void incorporates the hooks and melodies of pop music with a dark twist as it adopts a harsh industrial aesthetic.
“Satellites” opens with the hissing sound of a broken radio. A synthed-out piano sound plays in the background before the track bursts into a frenzy of distorted bass and feedback. The track is a beautiful cacophony of industrial noise and pop melody. It sends a wave of paranoid nostalgia washing over you as EMA sings about living in a society where you are constantly watched.
“So Blonde” has all the best features of a classic pop tune wrapped up in the rough exterior of grunge guitar riffs. The lyrics poke fun at those typical cool blonde kids who are always partying. EMA’s vocals are grungy at the best times and take on a narcissistic snarl at other times. “3Jane” is a simple song to say the least. Its sound is primarily piano-based with a tinge of synth and bass lurking beneath a gentle piano melody. The focus is on EMA’s vocals and her lyrics – lyrics that provoke images of how humans abuse the internet and use it to hurt other people.
“Cthulu” and “Smoulder” are both abrasive electronic tracks that draw heavily on industrial influences. Both these tracks have a Crystal Castles feel to them, except it is a cleaner and less haphazard sound. “Cthulu” builds up to a massive electronic breakdown of bass and feedback. “Smoulder” has a steady wall of bass and feedback while EMA’s vocals take on an Alice Glass-like quality.
“Neuromancer” is a pissed off electronic punk rant. It is laced with analog synth and the steady use of a drum machine. The song is executed in a traditionally punkish way as EMA rages about the implications of misusing social media and creating an online database of yourself.
“When She Comes” is filled with nostalgia and catchy electronic hooks. It is a throwback to EMA’s teenage years and reminisces about a Riot Grrl-styled friendship that she used to have. “100 Years” is a haunting piano ballad that is so easily missed on the first listen. It fades into the background amidst the electronic styling of the rest of the album.
“Solace” launches back into the abrasive electronic sound of the album. It is a mass of synth and bass which climaxes in an abrasive electronic breakdown that is fueled by a steady diet of heavily distorted bass and screeching feedback. The final track, “Dead Celebrity”, has a mournful quality to it as EMA plays with an organ sound you’d hear at a funeral. She takes this sound and synthesizes it to create an electronic-sounding version of it. It provides a fitting end to the album as it sort of mourns the end of a tremendous journey through cyberspace.
EMA captures the angst and chaos of society while making it easy to relate to. She digs deep into our digital lives and exposes just how dependent we are on technology and on the internet. The Future’s Void is an album of protest against the digital age. EMA is what happens when harmony meets discord. You get a beautiful mess of sound.