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March 7, 2011 by  

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A seven minute A-side and 17-minute B-side, yet EMA’s debut single, released today, has already been hailed from Pitchfork through to The Sun. Set to be one of the true gems at this year’s SXSW, she releases ‘The Grey Ship/‘Kind Heart’ on Souterrain Transmissions today, ahead of her debut album ‘Past Life Martyred Saints’ in May.

Catch EMA at the following SXSW shows:
March 16 SXSW showcase, Skinny’s Ballroom, 8pm
March 17 Pitchfork showcase, East Side Drive In, 1:30pm
March 18 My Old Kentucky Blog showcase, Peckerheads, 4pm
March 19 Mess With Texas, East Side Drive In, 12:25pm
March 19 Hell, Yes! / Impose Magazine / Art Fag Showcase, Long Branch Inn, 9:10pm

EMA recording guitar for “KIND HEART” from some dark holler on Vimeo.

If you’re a fan of guitar noise, Erika M. Anderson (EMA) may already be familiar to you. A South Dakota native, she moved to LA when she was just 18, because she really liked ‘Welcome to the Jungle’. There she formed the genre-defying cult duo Gowns with Ezra Buchla. Gowns’ 2007 album Red State was an electronic folk and feedback drenched masterpiece that left critics both raving and bewildered. There were also Gowns’ explosive live shows, often revolving around EMA’s spellbinding vocal delivery and stage presence. After seeing them at a New York showcase, the Village Voice was left to succinctly declare: “Holy fucking fuck!”

In the wake of Gowns’ demise, EMA has struck out on her own. Her debut single is the seven minute ‘Grey Ship’, backed with a glorious seventeen minute cover of the Robert Johnson blues staple, ‘Kind Hearted Woman’, where she claims to channel the entire history of rock and roll, from “birth to destruction”. Stand back people, lady making a grand statement, coming through…

“I love really long songs, really long pieces, and I wanted to see if I could make an engaging piece using primarily just voice and guitar,”EMA explains. “And I love the sound of guitar feedback. Tonal guitar feedback is one of my all-time favourite sounds.”

“The Grey Ship” s a nod to the Viking funeral ships of her ancestors, and while pop logic dictates the tune is divided into two parts, one sunny and strummy and the other low-lit and dramatic, the recording also switches up from lo-fi to hi-fi.

As EMA explains, “I wanted ‘Grey Ship’ to change fidelity in the middle of the song. I imagined it being like when Dorothy opens the door to Oz and the whole world turns from black and white to technicolour.” That change in fidelity also serves as a “sonic signifier” for transferring from the earthly plane to one beyond.

As a completely self-taught musician and home-recording engineer, EMA obsessed with an intensity that led to heartbreak as often as breakthrough. In the end, it’s her voice that makes any debate about the credibility of her musical musings pretty much irrelevant. Evoking the whisper-to-yell dynamics of early Cat Power but without the oft-copied melancholy, or early Liz Phair’s intimate and visceral expression, it is a voice completely compels the listener. Her songs are filled with harmonies and hooks that exist right in those sweet spots between melody and dissonance. It is a knowing voice, the sound of a drunken laugh while crying.

Her forthcoming debut solo album, Past Life Martyred Saints, announces a vital new talent bound to set 2011 alight with a voice like no other.



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