Monday, 19 September 2011

Emika: Debut Album Review

No surprises here, the self-titled debut from Emika is simply brilliant; haunting, ethereal and hook laden in mystery, showcasing a talent with a fearless approach to producing and performing that is unique and welcome in the current tidal wave of crossover electronica.

It is the sort of unblinkered approach to music that pulls from her own mixed English/Czech background and draws on influences from Bristol ‘house’ and ‘dubstep’ to Berlin’s ‘techno’. Emika’s inspiration goes way back into the archives of electro pioneering with her love of BBC Radiophonic Workshop and some of the first generation electro musicians yet ‘unsticking’ a genre sometimes fastened to the past, taking the best bits and placing it firmly in the future for a wider audience of music fans of all ages. Am I gushing, yes well Emika is worthy.

Having fallen head over heels with her early single ‘Count Backwards’ earlier in 2011, it was a much anticipated and excited wait for more releases and the recent double A single Pretend/Professional Loving really did not disappoint.

The only problem with reviewing an album this good is that you just want to sit and listen to it and it’s often too tempting to merely say ‘amazing, now go buy it’… but now for the tracks. The opener ‘3 hours’ is currently and well deservedly all over radio playlists this week and being ripped for eager fans online. It’s a building track with muted vocals lying over and under the instrumentation simultaneously resulting in a rich sound warming up with bass that vibrates to your core.

  '3 Hours' - From Mary Anne Hobbs Xfm show by emika

‘Common Exchange’ is my favourite amongst tracks that are consistently strong making it hard to choose; it however was immediate and the sort you flick straight back on for a repeat of the spine tingling overload of your senses, yes really that good. The intro has a definite Depeche Mode feel to it, breaking into lighter vocalising from Emika, changing the pace and layering the music in deep and resonating ways interspersing charming ivory tinkling at unexpected times.

‘Professional Loving’ is a strong seductive soundscape of creative enslavement and frustration resulting in a moody, down tempo filmic quality. The drama and darkness finalised with a strangely haunting piano close, something that Emika seems to use more than occasionally, a nod to her classical training and expertise at merging different styles and genres of music. ‘Be My Guest’ feels to me like the album’s intermission, its Portishead like spookiness putting stories of  alien sighting and crop circles onto manuscript. Basically, it’s kind of strange and hard to explain sending you into eerie realm with a chance breather at all the glitchy catchiness gone before and about to come.

‘Count Backwards’ is just shadowy perfection, a musical panic attack of countdown to calm within avant-guard creativity. Emika’s vocal shapeshift from creepy whispers to deep penetrating tones within uncomfortably pleasurable listening provoke and draw you into her madness. ‘Double Edge’ wakes you with its jerky movement and clubs up the feel just a margin showing the diversity of her imagination and then throws you headlong into ‘Pretend’ which boasts some of the best live footage seen in a while. The pretence is coldly vocalised along side some stark music with emotion simmering below the surface, this double A side with ‘Professional Loving’ being the perfectly seducing teaser for this album.

‘The Long Goodbye’ is a wail of melancholy, a tribal and divine feel not dissimilar to air of Fever Ray’s solo creativity. Strange and otherworldly, ‘At any given time’…anything could happen in this track. Finishing nicely with a Knife like vocal distortion and soaring depths of femininity showing off Emika’s range. Yes, you kind of lose yourself in random thoughts with this one. ‘FM Attention’ moves on with the distortion, a horror movie soundtrack of claustrophobia, sitting in waiting for you ready with an onslaught of glitchy footsteps.

‘Drop the Other’ and ‘Come Catch Me’ change the pace again and move back into more melodic yet erring on genius in its uniqueness, flirting with a more clubby feel again yet maintaining unpredictability.  The whole album ends with a wonderfully self-indulgent piano epilogue, grandly earmarked ‘Credit Theme’, a beautifully simple come down that grounds and puts your feet back on earth.

Emika’s debut is a seduction of the senses, musically a celebration in originality and quite simply amazing. Now go buy it. Emika is released on the 3rd October with the album launch in London on the 5th at The City Arts and Music Project.

Must Listens and assuming you’ve heard the recent double A, I would go for:

3 Hours
Come Catch Me

Recently put on Soundcloud is this rather fab Album Mix, listen below...

  Emika : Album Mix.... by emika

Full Track list:

3 Hours
Common Exchange
Professional Loving
Be My Guest
Count Backwards
Double Edge
The Long Goodbye
FM Attention
Drop The Other
Come Catch Me
Credit Theme

Related Links:


  1. Thanks for the review! I feel this is going to be my personal album of the year. BTW, I got tickets - Amon Tobin announced a third show with her in Brooklyn.

  2. That's great news! If the live clip of 'Pretend' is anything to go by, Emika will be fab...I keep meaning to check out Amon Tobin too. Enjoy the gig!