EMA - Exile In The Outer Ring
EMA paints a bleak portrait of modern American suburbia. Far from the white picket fences of the American Dream, she screams “I wanna destroy” in the faces of those who are ok with the status quo. In her own words “The outer ring is a suburban world of people pushed out of city centres by stagnating wages and rising expense, forced up against rural communities swallowed by sprawl.”
And who would know about it better than herself? After living in the very suburbia she speaks of since her last album release in 2014, the place has clearly had an impact. Casting a cynical eye over everything she sees, EMA has moved on from The Future’s Void, which warned us of the already overwhelming presence of surveillance in everyday life. This time she is here to paint a portrait of a world that time forgot.
American suburbia, or the outer ring as EMA calls it, is portrayed as she found it. A bleak, empty place where shops are boarded up and would-be city dwellers make the best of their economic situation. Exile In The Outer Ring, tells the stories of these people making their way through this land of abandoned car parks and disused shopping centres. Layered in fuzzy synth, her heavy guitar gives a spaced out feel to the album. The droning distortion is prominent on tracks like ‘Breathalyser’ and ‘Fire Water Air LSD,' and brings the sound in as close as it can be handled, and then a little more. As she switches from singing to spoken word and back again her timing is flawless.
As things in the real world escalate at an alarming rate, EMA rebels through song. “What are we hoping for?" She asks on ‘Down and Out’, questioning the motives of an entire neighbourhood. Ironically, this is an album that was written before the current political climate, but it’s easy to find echoes of its influence in her lyrics almost like a prophecy. Songs such as ‘Aryan Nation’ seem particularly relevant even if it’s not what was originally intended.
The album ends with spoken word track ‘Where The Darkness Began’. Apparently a reflection on real-life events, the track describes her journey to the outer ring and ends with this thought, “it’s hard to say where the darkness begins … but it’s possible that it’s coming from inside of you.”