Early May sees in the arrival of Erika M. Anderson AKA EMA into the depths of the East End, slap-bang in the middle of her mini world tour in promotion of the debut album Past Life Martyred Saints. EMA hold court for the night at The Macbeth; a glorious venue snuggled into the heart of Hoxton. The Macbeth, a haggard old pub that has been host to some of the most exciting new artists, DJs and club nights in town is a fitting venue for EMA, whose idiosyncratic noise-grunge has been making heavy waves in the hipper quarters of the indie since her emergence at the beginning of 2011.
EMA first found her musical feet in the cult group Gowns, a band renowned for their unusual, complex and exacting live performances. EMA has now carried this vibe forwards with her solo work, delivering a varied and changeable performance, shifting from eerie, subdued dirges to lavish cacophonies of sound, often within single songs. Her work transfers well to a live setting – with a small backing band to help there are nuanced flourishes and decorations of support in quiet moments, growing to a unified din of heavy crashes, bangs, feedback and dissonance in more punchy sections.
With EMA’s performance being essentially a one-woman show, guitar and vocals become the key focal point for the audience. Her guitar playing is often repetitive, but accomplished and interesting, with clear musical origins in both grunge and goth music cultures. It is however EMA’s voice which is most compelling, curious, changeable and fantastic. In the quieter sections of her performance, EMA’s voice appears fragile – it crackles and dips in an almost heartbroken way. Pitched high, thin and feminine, but inflected with a hint of subtle attitude, there is a richness and realism reminiscent of the styles of Bjork. Heavier sections however find EMA’s voice become almost demented, with bizarre inflections and a near distressing quality of angst and tension, similar to the work of Diamanda Galas and PJ Harvey – beautiful and yet terrible in equal measure.
Watching EMA perform is not unlike witnessing a music therapy session of a manic-depressive. Constantly swerving through emotions, there is a cathartic, organic quality to her performance. It is not a mess of expression, however, EMA is simply a lover of sound, and considers fidelity and feedback as relevant a part of her performance as bass http://www.morethanthemusic.co.uk/wp-admin/post-new.phpand drums. There is a clear, constructed intent evident within her music, with a rich complexity full of innovation and raw emotion that is interesting, challenging and captivating. In her own nonchalant, slightly moody manner she has a large degree of stage presence and charisma, one that perfectly matches her music to say the least. An enchanting performance then, filled with palpable electricity from a formidable and innovative musical mind.