Artist: Emma DJ

Release: Kingdom Era

Label: Lavibe

Release Date: December 20th, 2019

Soundscapes are sidled through magisterially by Emma DJ: shape-shifting with the wind, punishing one moment, and caressing the next. The Parisian has a knack for the unpredictable, a mercurial talent that molds sound into a volatile being: sometimes sweet and serine like deft fog simmering over a tranquil lake, or knife-edged and jagged like a serrated blade ribboning through flesh. These sensations come to the fore in his behemoth 11-track cassette album Kingdom Era. This will be his third cassette album in a year on French label Lavibe – no mean feat.

The contemporary sound proves difficult to nail to a specific genre or adjective. It hovers in a myriad of synths, modulations, glitches, kicks. Perhaps the task of describing the sound is futile…  

…are emotions and sensations the way forward to convey to you what is perpetuated within this piece of art.

Frivolous as it may seem, beauty is oft left indescribable, and to the observer usually useless in translating what happens in my head and heart to yours. 

Alas, the cassette launches with ‘Bush Days,’ a rubbery number that proves it can conduct electricity as a static encapsulates the substance. Progressive rather than repetitive, a theme of the album, it delves into agitated glitches that gurgle and swirl around a drain. Tin hats sound like a sped-up Newton’s Cradle, while hollow tin tap sees out the cut. The variation of sounds is a testament to the artist. Producing an album is difficult, producing three of this preeminence is genius.

Montserrat Hospitalities‘ follows up the opener. A slightly darker track with an undertone of an EBM like kick drum, the snappy clap churns the distorted track along. What’s nice in this number is the juxtaposition of sounds. The bass is coupled with this crashing breakbeat pattern, and it is all encapsulated with an elasticated synth that is rather feverish. A little less going on, but the texture and marriage of the simplicities are what make it beautiful.

Another cracking track on the dinger of an album is ‘Surf Dog,’ whose name I love. It’s progressive and adds ear-pleasing sounds as it moves: if you love electronic music, it can be a kind of ASMR. Starting with a double-kick that is merged with a synth that sounds like ripping sellotape from its holder. These wondrous and spiffy clicks are introduced and eventually morph into the sound of a dripping tap. The sounds in this are crazy and deserve to be listened to with quality headphones and an undistracted mind. 

Too many tracks to go through individually, plus I want to leave some surprise, the closure is ‘Losers I’ve Lost.’ All I can say is thank god he’s lost them if it led to this stellar production. A buzzing, hive-like synth bellows noise and almost sounds like someone calling out. It mellows with a sleazy slow old-school kick and snare that hangs out with an ethereal sweet serenade. The two are distorted and immersed in static, but it works, with easy-going toms and clicks joining the party. A lo-fi soft beat, but with a swirling constant buzz. 

My only complaint about this album would be; tracks aren’t long enough, with most in between two to three minutes. It’s just because I don’t want them to end. A great slice of wax, or should I say, something to slide into your Brixton Briefcase, seeing as it’s a cassette.