Review Summary: Chilled production, beautifully subdued vocals - a true must Czech album
After leaving Ninja Tune, dubstep/alt. r&b/downtempo songstress Emika launched her own record label, Emika Records. She's been quite busy with composition since starting her label - Drei
is Emika's second release of 2015, the first being Klavirni
, a solo piano LP. Drei
is fairly short, clocking in at 34 minutes. In comparison to earlier efforts like her self-titled debut, Drei
sacrifices the dark atmosphere for more overt, melodic songwriting. While Emika could have functioned as the soundtrack to a psychological thriller, her newest work has more of a synthpoppy feel.
Emika's voice glides over her instrumentals just as deftly as on previous work, with effortless tone and excellent vocal control. She doesn't opt for flashy vocal acrobatics like most of the alternative alt r&b crowd, instead opting for subtle moaning and pulling back to near-whispers. Most of her melodies are simple, yet quite infectious - as in "My Heart Bleeds Melody" for example. Her alto is often drenched in delay, lending her some fullness. When she moves into a higher range, such as in "Without Expression," she tends to adopt a wispier technique, but still maintains vocal integrity. This track owes an incredible debt to alternative r&b in the vein of Banks or James Blake. Emika tends to layer vocal tracks fairly rarely, but when this is done the separate vocal lines are mixed beautifully.
From a production standpoint, Drei
is immaculate and immediate. While Emika leans on dubstep tenets such as wobble bass, it's utilized sparingly, such as the relentless bassline on aforementioned "My Heart Bleeds Melody," or the convoluted yet melodic wobbles that appear sporadically in "What's the Cure." Emika tends to avoid being pigeonholed into any one genre by flirting with as many different styles as she can. The bass presence is an obvious nod to dubstep and the UK bass scene, but most of the treble content belies trip-hop leanings. She also excels at sound design, with pumping kicks, poppy snares, lush synths, and perfectly placed samples. Her sound design is perhaps best exemplified on "Miracles," in which icy chords bounce around continually to provide a bleakly layered soundscape.
Emika boasts immense skill as both a producer and a singer, and it's honestly somewhat baffling that she hasn't enjoyed the widespread popularity of most of her contemporaries. Her genre-bending style should appeal to all fans of electronic music, and her chordal structures and classical background should appeal to anyone with an ear for melody. Simply put, this is one of the finest albums of 2015, and you owe it to yourself to hear Drei