Review Summary: Shockingly cathartic and frigid, but also shockingly brilliant, Emika's long awaited debut is a thing of fragile and, at times, dazed beauty
Unstable might just be the best way to describe Emika's self-titled debut, and perhaps the artist as well. As her thoughts briefly chime in over the litany of clattering bass and broken beats you get a clear sense that perhaps not all is right here, that what may lie at the bottom of this particular rabbit hole might, in fact, bite back. And it's that kind of disguised and perceived violence that makes Emika
such an intriguing listen, like watching a car crash unfold from a safe distance. That she might snap and start screaming the paint off the walls at any given moment remains perhaps the driving force of this album, even more so than the mysterious beats that frame her damaged psyche. These beats, owing just as much to dubstep as to that mysterious darkwave inspired collective of individuals referred to by lesser minds as witch house, are just as on the fringe as their master; they're frantic and loose, shivering and disturbed. They don't so much as shine as they seem to exist in their own little world, their own orbit. They're creepy and sinister, drenched in psychotic sweat and dripping with malevolence.
While opener '3 Hours' starts off as a kind of robotic pop contraption, it swaps the obvious futurist ideal for something bordering more on the gothic as it spins a fractured take on lo-fi techno. Recent single 'Professional Loving' is more brooding and unrelenting, beginning in an innocent stupor before drinking itself crazy under a cloud of murky bass that come the end threatens to rise up and engulf the music box melody; which leads right into 'Be My Guest', an instrumental piece equally disturbed with its restless shakiness and disturbed bass. Both 'Count Backwards' and 'Double Edge' return here still retaining both their potency, with the former an initially soothing slow-burner of chainsaw melodies and ghostly musings. The latter is perhaps the most obvious attempt at normality, the clipped beats a touch more sublime as Emika touches on the indefinable and inescapable, the unseen ghosts and rumors that populate her world. 'Pretend' is another demented twist on the dancefloor niche, still more hellcat than heavenly inviting though.
Which perhaps is the perfect summary for this album; it's alluring for all the wrong reasons, and seems to be comprised of all the things we don't wish to talk about. Yes, it's dark and at times frighteningly cold, but like a bandaged doll it still seems to yearn for attention and love. It's shockingly cathartic and frigid, but also shockingly brilliant. Be it the furious pounding bass of the dubstep angle she toys with, or the amorphous dark ambient she seems to wallow in, whatever led you to Emika's debut LP will also leave you breathless.