In an interview with Pulse Radio, Electronic music producer and artist Emika voiced her concerns toward the beginning of her career about possibly imitating artists and sounds she liked as a means of searching for a signature sound, even demanding money from her label Ninja Tune. Through this time period, plus several releases and a compilation album called Fünf inspired by field recordings she compiled into a sample library and distributed to artists & DJ’s, we have her eponymous-titled debut release, Emika. A record filled with an eclectic infusion of Electronic programmed beats samples, synthesizers, and even subtle classical music influences that for sure separate Emika from her influences and put her into a musical category all on her own.
A nice introduction to the overall sound and mood the UK based artist has to offer is a more dark and sparse track that highlights several of the genres Emika successfully manages to incorporate into her work. “Professional Loving” contains an overall feel of Downtempo Electronic music, a Trip-Hop and Dubstep hybrid, with inklings of smartly programmed synthesizer work. Abstract lyrics and haunting vocals make their way known through the beat and are comprised mostly of upper frequency equalization work to create a difference and standout appearance amongst the mud and dirt the beat has created for itself.
Dirt and mud can either thrive or break a track. “3 Hours,” one of the album’s most straight-forward infusion of dark Electronic and Dance music is the track opener and quickly puts a perspective of the good and the struggles of the debut album. While it’s smartly produced from a song structure and lyrical standpoint, it unfortunately suffers extreme engineering
difficulties, most likely due to a poor mastering job that causes suffrage through the majority of Emika. Lower frequencies completely take over the mix of this track and bombard the speakers at such a high voltage that it’s enough to cause three stereo systems that I tried the disc out on and two car stereo systems to go absolutely mental, pounding and working hard to translate the frequencies and pump them through the air, but in the end coming out distorted and at times burying the rest of the mix.
Instrumental track “Be My Guest” also semi-suffers from an interesting approach to the mixing and mastering of Emika, with the majority of the sounds being compressed and at the front of the mix. Loud and ready to attack you, which takes away from an otherwise purely experimental and unique song, that comes very close to capturing the essence of electronic song production.
To better understand my gripping on if the overwhelming bass sound was just a biased opinion, my non-musically/engineer trained brother was asked impromptu style (which we’ve successfully done before and time again) his opinions on several of the tracks. The response after the initial shock that his car windows were actually shaking back and forth from the bass was “The frequencies stay the same. Nothing is really changing”. If you translate and analyze that into geek speak, it’s meant that everything in the mix is loud and that the bass is at times overwhelming so that it feels like nothing is changing musically, that the dynamic range stayed at a constant loud. And it’s proven through the TT Dynamic Range Offline Meter that every single one of the tracks featured on Emika clips in someway and while it has a semi-safe rating of about 7dB of Dynamic range throughout the entirety of the record, headroom is still squashed. He eventually reached for the EQ settings to turn down the bass setting.
In positive light, my Dubstep-loving, Metal music obsessed brother did enjoy the debut single from the album, “Drop The Other”. His response upon hearing this track was that it was the best out of the two and that “the bass sounds fine in this one” and it’s true. “Drop The Other” is one of the standouts on Emika’s first release in that there is a lot more to latch onto instead of a noisy bass. The beautiful opening piano, complete with being able to hear the mechanics of the hammers hitting the strings of it, and a Glitch-esque percussive opening is a great start. It’s the upper frequencies of these instruments and high-frequency equalization of Emika’s vocals that provide a nice and effective contrast against the dark, brooding, and constant lows.
Throughout all of the technical downfalls of this debut, if you strip the songs down to just their music and lyrical structure – it’s an absolutely gorgeous piece of art. Constantly compared to Portishead’s lead singer Beth Gibbons, the emotion and words written and sung are some of the finest released in the Electronic genre this year, sitting in nicely along side related acts, where lyrics of despair and uncertain love flourish among the smarty programmed beats. “Count Backwards” contains the eerily “I plan on turning back but I can’t say no. [I] was leaving from the start. I plan to swap your pennies for my thoughts one day, I’m counting backwards ’till then” and paints a perfect abstract picture of thought exchange is aided perfectly with reverberated vocals that mood the track up to a darker one.
Though the piano inklings of Emika’s classical music background are sparse, they’re not completely unrepresented. A piano-only break and soundtrack-music vibes are elegantly presented on the album’s closing instrumental track, appropriately called “Credit Theme”. Engineered perfectly, with an absolutely beautiful DR14 rating from the Offline TT DR Loudness Meter, it relies almost 100% on melodic content and song structure alone, giving a great comedown and slow end to the narrative-inspired songs Emika has uniquely programmed and put together to make one nice standing debut album.
Album rating: 3/5
Let us know what you think of the record in our comments section below! 2020k is proud to present an upcoming interview with Emika. Please feel free to submit your questions through our Twitter or Facebook page and give us a like and a follow so you’re first in line to read what she has to say about her debut, amongst other subjects! (You can also ask a question in the comments section if you’d like).
Purchase Emika (With Bonus Track) [iTunes]
Purchase Emika CD [Amazon]
Purchase Emika Vinyl [Amazon]
Download free ‘Drop The Other’ (Scuba’s Vulpine Remix)’ [Ninja Tunes’s Website]