Okay, let’s get it out the way nice and early: Emika is a genius, and the British-born Czech producer/sound addict’s full length debut for Ninja Tune is all the evidence needed to back that up.
It’s important to note first of all that the release is self-titled, as Emika the album and Emika the person appear intrinsically linked. It’s rare to be presented with such meditative human emotion and a strong vocal focus over beats as imposing as ‘Professional Loving’ or the skittering ‘FM Attention’, but somehow this makes the metallic productions even colder and more detached.
The chameleonic producer cycles through bass music influences as if digging through racks of 12”s in the record shops of her Berlin home (she moved to the city after first cutting her teeth on the Bristol dubstep circuit, where she now works as a sound designer for Native Instruments), and her tracks evade genre like classification dobby. The crunching bass lines of her dubstep roots sit alongside subtler trip-hop memes, with all out twisted electro
weirdness never far away.
Instrumentals like ‘Be My Guest’ flirt with the nerve-damaging bass tones and hypnotic rhythms of forefathers like Pinch or Peverelist, while compelling opener ‘3 Hours’ rattles around at the darkest edges of synth-pop. Tempos are varying, with Emika equally at home showcasing her skills over fast-paced four-to-the-floor kicks (‘Come Catch Me’, ‘Pretend’) or glacially slow pianos and electronic blips (‘Double Edge’). Her range is vast and impressive; even slipping into terrifying electro-horror on ‘The Long Goodbye’, with shades of Italian prog-rockers Goblin and their soundtracks to old Dario Argento films. Fright night continues into the rushing hi-hats of ‘FM Attention’; disconnected vocal fragments sticking out of the darkness at odd angles. Ninja Tune may have just released the debut album by the Delia Derbyshire of dubstep…
It’s hard not to use the cringe worthy descriptor “sassy” when discussing Emika’s vocals, but with the way she confidently slinks around ‘Drop the Other’, the term is positively redefined. With the UK bass music sound now entrenched in many areas of contemporary popular music, Emika turns the tables by pulling in elements of pop/R&B (a notable feature on ‘Drop the Other’) and even tips her hat to the healthy female singer-songwriter scene with
the delightfully bizarre ‘Count Backwards’.
Closing instrumental ‘Credit Theme’ exposes another of Emika’s many talents, as her classical piano training is put to good use with a Satie-esque miniature of deft elegance. As the last note of this stunning debut set fades away, it’s around this time that you start to wonder if she’s just been showing off all along…
‘Emika’ is out now on Ninja Tune.