EMA-Past Life Martyred Saints

 Rising phoenix-like from the ashes of Gowns, Erika M. Anderson has refashioned herself as EMA to turn in one of the most astounding debuts of recent years. Originally released in March 2011 Past Life Martyred Saints has been re-released as a ‘Deluxe’ package with bonus tracks and videos. To those familiar with the original work this may seem superfluous-akin to drawing a beard on the Mona Lisa- as one of the many things in its favour was the sparseness which did not allow for one wasted syllable, note or use of texture not entirely essential to the finished product, so much so that any addition simply feels unnecessary. Fortunately the bonus version mainly consists of two new extra tracks-one a Nirvana cover- and official videos of three of the albums standout tracks.

Sonically EMA sounds like some unholy collision between the Velvet Underground with Patti Smith as ranting chanteuse whilst Robert Fripp adds layers of his Frippertronic guitar lines all over the proceedings. There is no traditional verse chorus structure on any of the tracks and melodies float in like fragments but once lodged in your brain cannot be dislodged. Add to this the visual dynamic of the progeny of an illicit affair between Kurt Cobain and Kim Gordon with Debbie Harry contributing the sass and class gene. Then take some inspiration from Elizabeth Wurtzel’s nineties generational observation piece ‘Prozac Nation’, but instead of the whinging attitude replace it with something more abrasive and convincing then you have some idea of the motives and genre occupied by this album. Despite this unnecessary re-release the original package was so astounding that perhaps it needs appraisal again if only to introduce it to a wider audience.

Opening with ‘The Grey Ship’ Anderson’s agenda is very much incorporated in the three sections of this outstanding opener. Starting with  lo-fi  beginnings it bursts into aural technicolour midway through with weaving violins and guitars before concluding with the sepia tinted memories of ‘Great Grandma lived on the prairie, nothing, nothing and nothing/ I got the same feeling inside of me, nothing ,nothing and nothing’ . Lead-off single ‘California’ is up next and its intentions are clear from the outset ‘Fuck California, you made me boring’ whilst musically it sounds on the precipice of total collapse- a musical metaphor perhaps on the instability of the sunshine state and its constant threat of earthquakes and drug sated celebrity culture- though the tension is palpable whilst offering some throwaway nihilism ‘I’m just twenty two I don’t mind dying’. ‘Anteroom’ twists and coils itself into your psyche like a cobra ‘If this time through we don’t get it right, I’ll come back to you in another life’ before ‘Milkman’ takes a more conventional alt-rock approach. Not too conventional mind. Up next is ‘Coda’ which offers a weird variant on a satanic, twisted form of accapella ‘These drugs are making me so sad’ she proclaims demonically. ‘Marked’ takes a look at self harming culminating with the fadeout  ‘I wish that every time he touched me left a mark’. ‘Breakfast’ starts off like a sinister nursery rhyme designed to assuage nightmares before a guitar motif helps Anderson reach the orgasmic conclusion of ‘You feel just like a priest to me’. Butterfly Knife’ begins like the aural equivalent of Linda Blair’s 360 degree head turn in the Exorcist with a maelstrom of twisted voices fighting their way through an electric storm of discordant, crunching guitars. The official closer ‘Red Star’ is a slow burning lament of elegiac beauty with guitars drifting into the mix reminiscent of Lou Reed in his Velvets heyday to reach a perfect conclusion of beautifully melded vocals and suitably atmospheric sonic dissonance.

Of the extra tracks ‘To Leave with Love’ was a bonus track on the original release so does not appear incongruous and neither does the cover of Nirvana’s ‘Endless Nameless’ which sounds like mere continuation rather than tacked on filler. The videos for ‘California ‘, ‘Milkman’ and ‘Marked’ show how well suited to rock stardom Anderson is with her photogenic looks, natural instincts and understated approach though unfortunately she may actually be too abrasive and thought provoking to ever achieve the mainstream success she deserves and thus will probably remain the beloved secret of those who like their music disturbing and haunting. Never before has inertia sounded so enthralling!

  1. I like her vibe… very tough rock chick with a modern electro edge…

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: