South Dakota singer-songwriter EMA’s debut 2011 record Past Life Martyred Saints was compared to a car-crash. While the immediate notion is the album is something “you can’t look away from”, the crash itself is what the record should be compared to. Throughout the course of the raw, emotional LP Erika M. Anderson detailed: romantic obsession, physical abuse, self-mutilation, and more with an uncomfortable openness. When appended to heaving industrial melodies Anderson refers to as “folk-noise”, Past Life Martyred Saints became more than a case of chronic over-sharing, it was a living ghost story.
After taking the record out on tour, Anderson went dormant, but now her pained death-croon is back for round 2. The first noise we hear on new track “Satellites” is the sound of a Poltergeist-like static, announcing the return of the spectral Anderson. Noise is the ultimate way to obfuscate for EMA, a way to distract from the dispiriting stories she shares. Rumbling synthesizers and chattering claps are tasked with the job, though they fail when Anderson’s panged half-whisper comes into earshot. By the time the chorus comes around that whisper becomes frenzied as Anderson wails “I can’t relate” under a coat of churning electronics. According to new label Matador, “Satellites” introduces “us to some of the new album’s metaphysical themes, of struggling to understand where we fit in the digital age and where we are all headed.” More than noise, what we’re hearing is struggle.