EMA: Past Life Martyred Saints

Back in January we raved about the single ‘The Grey Ship’ from California’s EMA, and here’s the rest of the album from Souterrain Transmissions (home of Moon Duo). Surviving the break up of the nicely unhinged Gowns, Erika M. Anderson has established a distinctive  sound – okay, so there is a familiar So-Cal scuzziness to this, but it’s not an immediate hit like the one you get with Wavves and Best Coast; on the other hand she’s less likely to muck about with song structure than No Age. Having said that, while there are song-like things here – often based on extremely simple but distorted guitar lines, with a sense of rhythm that’s sometimes bluesy, sometimes almost dubby –  EMA is quite happy to use her (beautiful) voice and phrasing to tip things in unexpected directions. ‘California’ is a particularly good example; she declaims, raps, spits out the lyrics. We get a snatch of ‘Camptown Races’ on this song and both ‘Breakfast’ and ‘Butterfly Knife’ sound like lullabies or sing-song nursery rhymes, though the last is about self-harm and god knows what else. That sums EMA up, really; sweet, sad and gritty at the same time.

There is a a danger that it could wear out its welcome, precisely because most of it is so low-key and lo-fi, a wash of sound and some words; but it works for me because it keeps on working in new things (touches of a Spector-ish girl group on ‘Marked’, for example, a little Joey Santiago here and there). The final track, ‘Red Star’, is probably the highlight after ‘The Grey Ship’ and ‘California’, and we present that for your delectation, plus the video for ‘California’. That’s proper performing, right?

Red Star‘ – EMA – Past Life Martyred Saints

EMA’s page is here; buy the record here.


About jkneale

BothBarsOn's London correspondent.

Posted on May 13, 2011, in Album reviews and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I bought this on the basis of this review.

    Blogs do work.

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