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EMA shares new video for “Down & Out”

EMA – “Down & Out”

emaThis morning EMA has premiered the video for her song “Down & Out”, taken from forthcoming third album, ‘Exile in the Outer Ring’, which is to be released on August 25th via City Slang.

The clip, directed by Alicia Rose, features Portland artist Taj Bourgeois alongside EMA. “I came across Taj’s work at a small house-gallery in PDX called Surplus Space. It was mostly sculptures including a crucified banana and some leather-bound S&M carrots. I loved it immediately. He is constantly creating work on pretty much zero budget, and it’s brilliant. I thought that combination of broke-ness, innovation, desperation and hilarity would be a perfect match for ‘Down And Out,’” says EMA (aka Erika M. Anderson). “Our relationship isn’t super defined in the video but overall he’s kind of like my alter-ego.  One theme that emerged was kind of male/female modes of destruction and frustration. Inward vs. outward desperation, vanity and lack thereof. Definitely our work in general shares the theme of transformation in a prosaic place. The little girl that comes in at the end is his daughter. They often make work together and how lucky for a kid to have a dad like that? To me the image of her cutting his hair at the end is kind of like the lamb taming the lion, a bit of tenderness in a cruel world.”

“I loved Erika’s idea of bringing Taj Bourgeois into the mix for this video. I thought his incredibly raw performance art could yield compelling ‘vignettes of futility’ that would juxtapose nicely with Erika’s stripped down performance of the song. We had been talking for a while about recreating a set that was like her living room, which as her friend I’ve seen evolve alongside her art as a sort of physical nexus of for her writing process,” says director Alicia Rose. “Visually, I was excited to toy with the ideas of female composure and restraint vs. male fearlessness and defiant flagellation, especially at this moment in fucked up history. We made the video around the corner from Erika’s house at public access studio Open Signal and only had 10 hours to pull it all off which gave it a challenging time-based art element.”

“I’m excited about this record because it has everything I personally like listening to: fat synth drones, heavy guitar riffs, singsong backing harmonies and narratives about small town leftovers and complex loves; whispered secrets, kids from the void, static turned into melody and layers of crafted feedback,” she says, surmising the this third full length release as EMA, which finds her more confident in her stride than ever before. “This is my language, my sonic signature and psychic soundtrack. I’m ripping off the past 10 years of my own work and I couldn’t be more pleased with the results.”

After the success of 2010’s Past Life Martyred Saints and 2014’s prophetic The Future’s Void, EMA retreated to a basement in Portland, Oregon. She returns with a portrait of a world both familiar and alien: The Outer Ring, a pitch-black world of half-empty subdivisions, American flags hung over basement windows, big-box stores and strip malls and rage. In a year dominated by working-class alienation, EMA — a Midwesterner who has never lost her thousand-yard stare — has delivered an album that renders American poverty and resentment with frightening realism and deep empathy.

 

 

The album, co-produced with Jacob Portrait of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, is unique in its mingling of gender politics with American working-class anxiety. The voices we hear in these songs — druggy, surly societal outcasts; Byronic nihilists bringing down fire — speak to a kind of rebellion that’s typically reserved for men, and the archetype of the “rebellious dirtbag teenage boy” dominates the album. Yet EMA claims some of that same dirtbag alienation for women — “a woman who swallowed a scumbag teen boy whole,” as she puts it – and uses it to interrogate both her own vulnerability and how male violence shapes the world, as on “Aryan Nation,” where Exile’s many threads come together. Feminist alienation becomes working-class alienation (if you can’t see yourself in a “famous man,” is it because he’s a man, or because he’s famous?) just as one person’s abuser becomes the systemic abuse of a nation. It’s an expansive vision that brings together concerns from every corner of our present moment – and themes that have recurred throughout EMA’s career, from the brutality of late capitalism to the collapsing boundaries between private and public – into one dark portrait of what it means to be American in 2017.

Even as the album delivers what might otherwise be a total indictment, EMA never loses sight of the possibility of healing; if Exile In The Outer Ring spends a lot of time addressing rage, it also asks what growing up submerged in all this violence does to one’s ability to trust and connect with others (“Receive Love”), or whether it’s even possible to run away from pain (“Always Bleeds”). The result is a deeply personal, confrontational, but ultimately redemptive album from a quintessentially American artist at the peak of her form.

Exile In The Outer Ring will arrive in stores on August 25, 2017 via City Slang and is available for pre-order in multiple bundle packages via Bandcamp and select US/UK indie stores

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