EMA - The Future's Void | Album Review | By Volume

Holding on too long is just a fear of letting go, because not every thing that goes around comes back around, you know. QOTSA - ...Like Clockwork
The Future's Void

EMA

The Future's Void

“Feel like I blew my soul out, across the interwebs and streams”

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Author: on April 8, 2014
8.2
City Slang

I have always found EMA a desperately raw musician. By raw, I don’t mean unskilled; rather, her music is intensely emotional, filled with dissonance, and completely unapologetic. It made her debut Little Sketches on Tape heart-warming in spite of its flaws; it was translated into transcendence with her exceptional sophomore effort Past Life Martyred Saints, a folk album in the noisiest sense. And here on The Future’s Void, this heart-on-sleeve song-writing leaves the folk backbone behind in favor of screeching guitars and touches of new wave a la Depeche Mode. Creating some weirdly weighty effervescence in the process, EMA runs with this aesthetic throughout most of The Future’s Void to great success. I mean run quite literally: this album is the breeziest she’s put out yet, with more ease than Gowns’ excellently sequenced Red State, even. The Future’s Void kicks in the moment “Satellites” begins to buzz and doesn’t stop. Relentless momentum is something that EMA has rarely projected in such widescreen. Her music always has a cinematic quality to it – almost as if you’re flowing along past endless fields of wheat in the South Dakota plains – but her previous two albums felt tempered. This use of negative space gave them a distinct heart, and while The Future’s Void certainly beats with one of its own, it’s very different this time around.

On EMA’s previous albums, her diary-page expulsions via lyrics felt very much of the past, like we were getting a recounting well after the fact. I bring this up to accentuate just how much her song-writing has matured on The Future’s Void. The through-her-eyes cerebral quality to the songs is still very palpable, but now it feels less like a documentary and more like live TV. These songs feel more of-the-moment both musically and lyrically; “Makin a living off of takin’ selfies / Is that the way that you want it to be? / When they come and ask you, it was / Only the thing that you’ve done for free”, she declares to open “Neuromancer”, following up: “I know the way they pray and they blame / It’s been the same for ages and ages and ages”. It offers up World media culture to the chopping block, and where previously EMA was discussing her past, at the time a mine ripe for the unfurling of gems, now she seems to concentrate on these present snapshots. While I’m certain those previous riches aren’t dried up, it’s refreshing to hear this familiar sound from a different angle.

There is that notion of the redemption / I’m searchin’ redemption with my eyes / Cause if you can’t find any redemption, you know / You’re better off in dying”, she sings on the cavernous “Cthulu”, a song that is possibly the perfect example of her evolution so far. It’s expansive, introspective, but it’s also written from the outside looking in. Musically, it grabs you, drags you down, and refuses any respite. On the opposite end, there’s “100 Years”, the softest song, but in her usual fashion EMA’s talons sink deep and the venom seeps in, numbing before the ecstasy. “100 Years” is sparse, but biting. It refuses to let its minimalistic nature supersede its intense emotional upheaval. “On our last pneumatic encounter / Men in metal fight through the sky / Find the world, eclipsed by a fever / Striking masses down in their prime / How it trembles, while it’s unwinding / How it shatters, lungs of the live”, she echoes as the song dies, emanating this essence of sadness from her voice. Only EMA’s voice could give it such finality.

From the gullies of Atlanta / To the Plain States, where we pray / I can measure all the distance / By the way, she says my name / And she gets solace, holding on to me”, EMA sings on “Solace”, painting a literal picture of the expanse created by long distance relationships. Accentuating the lyrics with tempered percussion and arpeggio synths that create a motion akin to yellow lines passing on the highway, she creates a canyon. Its this extreme distance that makes EMA’s music so personal; constantly at odds with itself, she crafts songs that should sound impersonal. Instead, she invites you in with this open door policy to her soul. It’s touching, endearing and endlessly admirable. “You can judge us / You can love us / You can blame the world on me / Cause we wanted, something timeless / In this world, so full of speed  / In the weekly magazine / Light a candle R.I.P.” she morbidly sings on “Dead Celebrity”, concluding to the record’s fade out with: “So close your eyes and, picture legend / Tell me what you want to see / When you click on a link of / The dead celebrity”. The world EMA has created feels real because it is, but following The Future’s Void, I emphatically state there is nothing in her future but more life. Deceptive a title it may be, this album fills you with hope. Cathartic in nature, sure, but this is the type of realistic relief that creates true happiness, even when you’re staring into the void.

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