Emika - Emika

  • Share
  • If you aren't familiar with Czech-born Berlin-based producer Emika from her own bass-heavy broodings on Ninja Tune, you might be familiar with her role as the disembodied voice in Tommy Four Seven's Primate, or as the one who provided the field recordings for Ostgut Ton's Funf compilation. With a winding musical history that stretches from the dubstep caverns of Bristol to the Berghain, the sound she's let trickle out on a steady series of singles is a parched take on dubstep equally influenced by trip-hop and techno, the hardcore continuum running through its ice cold veins in all its extant forms. You probably could have guessed that Emika works as a sound designer even if I hadn't told you; her music is painstakingly, well, designed, the kind of thing you could expect to soundtrack an installation as much as a club night. As a result of this approach, Emika's songs tend to feel like empty shells rather than proper structures, aside from a few notable exceptions like the thundering dubstep of "Be My Guest." She doesn't approach them as songs so much as discrete spaces for sound to inhabit and reverberate. Above all, Emika's music is formidably physical, a quality only amplified by the tense silence that constantly threatens to swallow everything around it. Listen on headphones and you'll get an uncomfortably absent 48 minutes; listen on a good system and you'll be entrapped and immersed. The effect is a record that feels like it lives in a vacuum of permanent blackness, a gothic sensibility that extends itself to the album's baroque instrumental flourishes ("Drop the Other"). As inhospitable as it might feel sometimes, Emika is a very identity-intense album. That's her face on the cover, that's her name as the title, and her distinct vocals and gasps are all over it. Gasp is the key word: a strained choke somewhere between Nico and Beth Gibbons, Emika uses her voice as elements to drive tracks, repeating simple melodies like mantras ("Double Edge") or layering her voice to wonderfully creepy effect ("FM Attention"). When she goes for the full-vocal effect, like on the industrial-tinged opener "3 Hours," it's less successful, her apathetic vocals failing to convey either the anxious sensuality or anger necessary to pull off the song's S&M themes. But those moments are rare, and more often than not her vocals layer like frazzled brushstrokes over intense behemoths of vibration ("Double Edge," "Professional Loving"). Emika rarely goes the easy route: you won't find many complete melodies here, or many sounds that don't flit and disappear immediately after rattling the cage. It really does feel more like a piece of "sound art" than dance music, but then again, I'm sure the demented basslines of "Count Backwards" or the action-movie chords of "Common Exchange" could a rock a club just fine.
  • Tracklist
      01. 3 Hours 02. Common Exchange 03. Professional Loving 04. Be My Guest 05. Count Backwards 06. Double Edge 07. Pretend 08. The Long Goodbye 09. FM Attention 10. Drop The Other 11. Come Catch Me 12. Credit Theme