Seventy-two inches of bleached-blonde, bourbon-soaked, stung-lipped American Woman lopes on stage in hot-pants and grabs a star-covered guitar. Erika M. Anderson, wearing a necklace bearing her alias, EMA, ain’t too easily ignored. Formerly of Gowns, the cult drone rock duo that imploded at the end of 2009, EMA tonight plays through most of ‘Past Life Martyred Saints’, a debut of deconstructed grunge that places her bold-but-fragile voice at the eye of the storm, circled by drawn-out riffs and warped desert rock. Stripped of the record’s extensive multi-tracking and distortion, that voice takes on a different character, somehow more vulnerable, like a runaway teen with too many tall tales and battle scars.
Between songs she jokes with us, slurring her words as she snaps on her “show-time suspenders” (patterned with piano keys), but it’s a clownish façade that slips once the guitar kicks in and she’s spitting her stories of high school and violence and bluebirds and the Viking funeral ships that bear her ancestors. Closing with ‘California’, an astonishing ode to the state that “made me boring”, she pulls the mic lead round her neck like a noose and raises two fingers on her right hand: the all-American ambassador, armed with religious blessings and a gun. We’re not so much her audience as her battle casualties, joyously martyred to serrated edge rock’n’roll.
By Chal Ravens
Originally published in issue 28 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. May 2011