Artists Of The Year

CMU Artists Of The Year 2011: Emika

By | Published on Tuesday 13 December 2011


The first time we covered Emika in CMU was with an Approved piece in November 2009 ahead of the release of her debut single for Ninja Tune, ‘Drop The Other’. At the time I wrote that she’d be “someone we’ll be listening to and talking about a lot next year”. And she was, though when I wrote that, I did assume we’d have an album to discuss, rather than just two singles and a few tracks recorded prior to her Ninja deal. Patiently we waited, rewarded we were not.

‘Drop The Other’ was released in January 2010, and followed by ‘Double Edge’ in May. I subsequently began to get my hopes up about the album, but mostly things fell silent for the rest of that year. Then, finally, in January of this year, she re-emerged providing vocals for ‘I Mean’, a solo release by Brandt Brauer Frick’s Paul Frick. Then a month later she announced the release of a third single from that elusive long player, a track called ‘Count Backwards’, with a two part music video. Anticipation remained high.

Then, in July, Emika’s eponymous debut was finally given a release date – 3 Oct – almost two years since we’d heard that first single from it. I let myself get excited, before giving into pangs of anxiety. After two years of eagerly awaiting the album, there was absolutely no way it could live up to my expectations. I feared I’d managed to over hype it in my own head. But thankfully, once I managed to get my hands on a copy and had convinced myself to press play, it turned out to be one of this year’s best albums by some distance.

You might think that an album that was such a long time coming might be a bit disjointed (especially as early versions of many of the tracks on it pre-date Emika’s signing to Ninja Tune by some way) – more a collection of tracks than an album per se. However, regardless of how long it may have taken to put together, it sounds like it was written and performed all in one sitting. Not to say that it doesn’t sound like a great deal of work has gone into it, because it does, but part of that work was making it sound like a snapshot of 47 and a half minutes, late one night in a dark basement.

Pulling on all sorts of permutations of UK bass music and Berlin techno, plus a dose of 90s R&B, ‘Emika’ is an album that has its own sound, with no artists clearly definable as influences. It’s dark and edgy but also filled with hooks, sung softly, almost through gritted teeth, and somehow both loud and quiet. An album I can imagine putting on to wind down to after getting home in the early hours of the morning, but also one I wouldn’t be surprised to hear while I was out as well. In fact, seeing Emika live a couple of months ago showed what a different experience her music can be when played through a proper PA, sub bass shaking your bones and restricting your breathing.

Very few artists manage to create such a distinct world in which to place their songs, one that seems to exist in isolation, which would be recognisable from hearing just a few seconds of any track. As a body of work it was not only worth the wait, but exceeded expectations.

Here’s the video for the final single to be released before the full album, ‘Professional Loving’.

Find more of CMU’s ten Artists Of The Year here.