On 2011′s Past Life Martyred Saints, Erika M. Anderson was reeling from the dissolution of her former band Gowns and the break-up with boyfriend/bandmate Ezra Buchla. She harnessed all that upheaval and all-consuming discontent into a raw, dynamic debut filled with self-flagellation and darkness. For her sophomore effort, Anderson switches her focus outward, contemplating her place amid the personal disconnect and increasing sense of alienation in the internet era.
On the devastating opening track “Satellites,” Anderson uses an oscillating wall of static and drone to convey dread and paranoia. Her lyrics, here as elsewhere, obsess over the diminishing privacy and heightened personal scrutiny of the digital age — “I remember when the world was divided by a wall of concrete and a curtain of iron,” she sings, sounding positively nostalgic. It’s an effective opening salvo to an album that employs a lot of cold synth lines and beats that wouldn’t be out of place on a late-’80s/early-’90s industrial album. In between the heavier, darker moments, hints of her older sound poke through, like the dreamy pop song “When She Comes” or the fuzzed-out, catchy ’90s grunge throwback (“So Blonde”).
Given the consistency of the record’s subject matter and the lyrical nods to both Lovecraft and William Gibson, The Future’s Void comes close to being a full-fledged sci-fi concept album, minus the pretension. On “3Jane,” EMA references the character Lady 3Jane Marie-France Tessier-Ashpool, the bored party girl/clone and scion to two powerful families in Gibson’s seminal cyberpunk novel Neuromancer. But EMA uses her as a metaphor to examine the emotional toll her internet presence takes on her: “I feel like I blew my soul out/ across the interwebs/ and screamed…it left a hole so big inside,” she sings.
The Future’s Void certainly isn’t without its missteps. “100 Years” drags on just a little too long and the album closer “Dead Celebrity” has the sing-songy reimagining of “The Star Spangled Banner” paired with some rather on-the-nose sampling of fireworks. On the whole, The Future’s Void isn’t as consistent as Past Life Martyred Saints, However, even the more awkward moments exhibit a willingness to take the kind of risks that demonstrate Anderson’s increasing confidence and comfort within her role as a solo artist.