EMA - Outtakes from Exile

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:6 Release Date:2018-02-02
EMA - Outtakes from Exile
EMA - Outtakes from Exile

EMA, the project of Erika Michelle Anderson, has returned with a small companion set to her 2017 album Exile in the Outer Ring to coincide with her touring in support of Depeche Mode this year. Called Outtakes from Exile, it is a wholly contemporaneous set, with its songs recorded during the same sessions as the album but briefly set aside. Your feelings about that pretty solid release will inform your feelings about this one for the most part.

Lead track 'Dark Shadows' is a hazy, gothic piece that feels like it came straight out of the 80s. Blurry, meandering instrumentation makes it sound like it was recorded in a dark room, while Anderson's vocals are at their scratchiest croon here, papery and fragile. 'MopTops (Twist While the World Stops)' is more of an alt-rock, dusty country road song, something you'd hear at a bar in the middle of the desert. The style here reminds me strongly of cult/band Graham Rabbit.

After a strong opening, the set loses a bit of steam with 'Anything Good', which is fairly bland. A slow, plodding baseline and squawky guitar fail to get the motor running, and Anderson's sultry vocals creak and crack a bit too much. 'From the Love that We Made' sounds like an outtake from Nine Inch Nails' The Downward Spiral, starting with a lot of ultra-harsh, buzzing electronics, and then transitioning to a quiet finale driven by acoustic guitar. It almost works, but it's just a tad too atonal in the early going. The last two minutes are delicate and sweet though, showing once that Anderson has quite a bit of range.

Everything up to this point has been standard songs for the most part, even if a bit edgy here and there. Final track 'Breathalyzer Instrumental (EMA Long Cut)' clocks in at a ridiculous twenty minutes, more than all the other songs combined, and it spends the vast majority of that time grinding and vibrating through deep bass sequences. Sections of the song include layers of feedback produced by either guitats, synths, or a combination. A slow beat turns the song into a gruesome death march in places, but the permutations of synths also give the track and otherworldly, alien feel in places too. It's pretty far off the beaten path even compared to her other work, more drone than anything else. The fact that it overwhelms the rest of the set in length ends up unbalancing the experience though, to its detriment.

Still, there's nothing actually bad in this set. The first two songs are on par with her best from the album, and the other tracks are decent, if not exactly captivating.

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