Exile In The Outer Ring
Erika M. Anderson (aka EMA) is a force to be reckoned with. Coming in with a dark horror soundtrack to bolster her song writing between albums, this third official LP has a deeper sense of narrative to its sound. Always full of electronic life, and never boring, the album finds her navigating the middle ground between sound and melody, creating gripping and emotionally powerful music at the same time.
Starting on a majestic strum, “7 Years” moves with a reserved but powerful use of instruments. The vocal melody is so pained and emotionally-charged it takes a few listens to really get every side of it, but the plugging drums and keyboard melody that close the track take it sky-high. On a dense and glitch-tinged crawl, “Breathalyzer” carries a menacing weight in its ever-growing synth lines. Thanks to its constant build, that pays off by sheer grandeur, it carries through its six minutes rather gracefully.
With a punk kick, “I Wanna Destroy” carries a blend of guitars and electronics with lyrics that carry tones of Iggy Pop. Finally bringing the energy to a fever-pitch, the drums thrash out in a finale that goes all out as it screams. Stripping things back on “Blood and Chalk” lets its simple piano ballad slowly swell with synths and loud drums. As the guitar wail comes in however the track pushes a loud and proud emotional release that lets the track breathe with unfiltered glory.
“Down and Out” cuts between its subtle beat and guitar notes, recalling the middle albums of The Kills with a suave minimalism. Given it does tend to stick on its simple progression, it does offer a lot in its dynamic and crying backing track. Loud beats and fuzz set the tone for “Fire Air Water LSD,” letting the vocals come in as creepy as you’d expect on its industrial mood. Recalling the heavier dark rock of the 90s the track is unabashedly dirty in its sound and bursts every chorus with an almost melody destroying sense of distortion.
Keeping the guitar-drive going, “Aryan Nation” takes a sharp attack on the hard right through its Kills meets Trent Reznor sound. Recalling parts of Karen O in the vocals, Anderson commands listeners on this track, providing a strong sense of rebellion. “33 Nihilistic and Female” comes in shredding on its vocals as Anderson blends her vocals over each other with a twisted sense of melody. The bright meets ugly sound has a delightfully weird contrast making the track all the more memorable while being surprisingly catchy.
On more spacious guitar playing, “Receive Love,” has a more delicate sound as its synths provide a more moody backing, letting the guitar and vocals steer the ship. The fragile tone to the vocals recalls Tom Waits crooning (tone of voice obviously withstanding) and the more restrained sound lets the listener come in even more. Taking a much more drawn out approach, “Always Bleeds” beats away slowly, taking on a chaotic thrust of sound in its brief climax, before dwindling down slowly. Giving a sci-fi type of narration, “Where the Darkness Began” sets a dystopian tone for the whole sound of the album. Very eerie and cool in its closeness, it does feel like it would be better served as an intro rather than an outro.
Words by Owen Maxwell