Bristol-born, Berlin-based musician Emika has been operating on the margins of electronic music for some time, coming close to making a real breakthrough with the dark dubstep influenced pop of her well-regarded self-titled debut. Her second album Dva carries on the sound established on Emika. It sees the classically trained musician and producer operating from an even wider sonic palette to create a follow up with more colour and dynamics.
Dva is an album informed by Emika’s rich appreciation of electronic music in all its facets. This is an appreciation informed by her time writing and making music in Bristol as well as immersing herself in Berlin’s esteemed electronic scene, where she initially worked as a sound engineer for Native Instruments before recording her debut album in the city.
Emika’s appreciation of electronics and the mechanics of sound merge neatly and satisfyingly with a gift for making dark and elusive electronic pop. There are numerous hooks here but they reveal themselves gradually over time. Nothing is too obvious, everything fits into place. Songs like the symphonic skip of Fight For Your Love and the nagging melodies of Sing For Me are essentially excellent pop songs, warped through the prism of Emika’s singular approach.
The most obvious difference between this album and the debut is the more pronounced classical influence. Neo-classical sounds are woven in with juddering low-end beats and the pitter-patter of glitch percussion into a quite alluring and unique sound. In an example of the broadened spirit that Dva operates with, Emika has enlisted the skills of the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra as well as working with Czech soprano Michaela Šrůmová, whose voice provides the atmospheric intro to the album that is Hush Interlude. It’s a little thing in the context of the album but these added effects are a prime example of how Emika’s music moves beyond traditional electronic tropes. The sound of the orchestral pieces is even more striking. Dem Worlds is a truly sublime piece of music: Emika’s ghostly vocals combine with strings to moving effect.
There is more expression at work than on her debut. Emotions and desires are ramped up. The doleful lament of Primary Colours seems to describe the death of a relationship in stark and bleak terms. “It’s the distance between us,” she proclaims plaintively before asking “What have we become?” The musical accompaniment is suitably stark and cold. An ominous mood is continued on the quietly chilling Sleep With My Enemies; the sensory throb of numerous synths and bass pulses becomes almost overpowering.
Perhaps the album’s most surprising track is an understated version of Chris Isaak’s oft covered Wicked Game. Emika’s version keeps the foundation of the original while warping it ever so slightly and taking it to an altogether deeper and darker place. With her voice reduced to the slightest of whispers, the sense of desire is palpable.
Dva is a progression from what has gone before. It is perhaps slightly too long and lacks anything as thrilling as Drop The Other, but it nevertheless represents Emika as a fascinating artist with immeasurable promise.