Melanfonie – Emika


The last time I wrote about Emika (click HERE to read), I loved the music, but complained that it was somewhat too derivative of a certain ‘Bristol sound’. This latest offering from the Anglo-Czech electro maven is also derivative, but in the best possible way; here is a symphony orchestra, delivering all the tropes one might expect from any serious modern composer – and it’s bloody convincing.

Emika dives straight into the orchestra and soprano combo and keeps going. Opener, ‘Grief Prelude’ meanders threateningly, its Persian influences hinting towards Queen’s Innuendo but without the pomp. The track builds, layering the sense of tension and foreboding – then stops. Out of the blue. This abrupt cut-off was rather a shame; I’d kind of been expecting a Massive Attack-style slow builder… but then that would have been exactly the basis of my previous complaint.

The plaintive horns on ‘The Miracle’ are comfortingly familiar, with echoes of Phillip Glass and even bringing to mind Henry Purcell, albeit briefly. This is where showing your influences can work, bringing tried and tested arrangements into a fresh context. Dissonance is used to great effect, betraying a horrible grandeur – like you’d imagine the air would sound like from the 107th floor of one of Donald Trump’s ghastly skyscrapers. The horror comes through in Penderecki-stylings. These remain when soprano, Michaela Šrůmová, enters. The lyrics are melodramatic, but lacking in operatic grandeur.

‘Letting go’ heralds a change in pace. I can’t quite tell if it’s bells or electronics and in fact, this may even be a variation on one of her previous tracks. Cheeky – but it works well here. Emika might arguably be playing the long game here, using cross-album themes. We get some nicepizzicato strings before the soprano returns, but I can’t make out the lyrics. There is clearly a fair amount of trauma in this narrative and it’s written into the melody. We do get a bit histrionic (the girl can sing), but the theme has enough gravitas (and is quite simple) to maintain dignity. ‘Love’ returns to more traditional orchestration to convey anxiety and sadness, building to a sublime high A at 4:16. This isn’t just bleak – it is abject.

Horns come in for ‘Destiny’ and the Persian theme is back. We’re getting somewhere orchestrally here. The Eastern feel brings a sense of cohesion and builds the variation. Later, we’re back in Koyaanisqatsi territory; solid influences delivered with irrepressible slickness. ‘Finally free’ is a muted celebration. It sounds homely, but retains a sense of ‘ostranenie’ or defamiliarisation. The effect is neat; the cadence brings earlier themes, implying a place of safety but with a hint of terror – like those horror films where the protagonist escapes, but the final scene shows that the evil spirit has somehow followed them. If Emika goes for a sequel here, I’d be more than happy.

Essentially, this is a hell of a lot better than most electronic composers manage. This girl knows production and you can trust her with an orchestra. Buy this one.

Andrew Fletcher

Andrew Fletcher

My name is Fletch. My favourite films are Fletch and Fletch Lives. But this is a music blog, so my favourite musician is Andrew Fletcher from Depeche Mode, or Andrew Fletcher, the Birmingham-based composer/arranger. When I'm not writing classical music reviews, I like to hide in boxes, wear shoes, use long words and lark about. In real life, I'm a researcher at 'the other' university in Newcastle. The research is about music. Turns out it's good for you.
Andrew Fletcher

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