The debut album from Emika — real name Ema Jolly — inhabits the threatening, twilit territory you might expect from an artist who lived in London and Bristol and grew up musically in Berlin. Here, West Country dubstep bass throbs against inexorable Deutsche beats, and spectral, indistinct electronics transport the boom and crunch of clubland to frostier climes where Cabaret Voltaire or Portishead live.
Though Emika’s voice is an understated thing, there’s no denying the scope and versatility of her production styles. “Professional Lover” is a stately, piano-haunted piece — imagine Regency dubstep — while “FM Attention” connects fizzing, Autechre-style machine dreams to dancefloor electro. “The Long Goodbye,” on the other hand, crushes and distorts what sounds like a tango band until only the echoes are left.
The darkness in Emika’s music is not just figurative. “Hit me if you think that it will help the pain,” she sings on opener “3 Hours” — “Hit me, hit me, hit me, hit me anyway.” Its clubby hook is a hymn to self-destruction, setting a gothic tone to an album that pushes dubbed-up electronics over its own event horizon. It’s not comfortable listening but it is powerfully charismatic. And anyone who cites Delia Derbyshire, the brilliant and tragic radiophonic sound designer behind the theme from Doctor Who, as her heroine is fine by us.