When Gowns broke up almost two year ago, the freak-folk community was left in agony. Fans were left with a 17 minute catastrophically emotional song entitled 'Stand and Encounter', a wave goodbye to the underground DIY scene. Erika Anderson (who fronted Gowns) returns with a stripped back, experimental record hitting the 37 minute mark.
Field recordings and a count in open the album, before Erika's layered vocals take shape with the raw and sketchy acoustic guitar riff and background percussion. I'm struck by the beautiful eerie atmosphere, it creates a vision of depression and a fossilised world. Two minute in and a spacious synthesizer riff is heard which rips through the track slowly moving from the left speaker to the right. Erika sings like a desperate member of Nordic society on 'Grey Ship'. Her Nordic ancestry was a lyrical inspiration, it accounts for the glorified soundscapes made popular by Gowns. The guitar work is prisoned by the spare atmosphere and her noticeable vocal delivery. After a climatic ending with hard hitting percussion and a distorted electric guitar, Erika delivers a cold final verse, giving the image of a freezing winter night in Scandinavia.
"Fuck California! You made me boring". This is the opening to the impressive 'California'. With a huge emphasis on lyrics, Erika delivers a message to the listener and too herself, the message of hate and warning. The song references sexuality, freedom and relationship struggles, not to mention California. I must mention the incredibly personal and disclosed lyrics of 2011 "You never seen the ocean, you never been on a plane, schizophrenic rules the brain. Aliens coming to take you away, you're still my favorite past life martyred saint".
The Grunge-esque 'Anteroom' features low lying bass and deep acoustic guitar reminiscent of those early PJ Harvey days with Rid of Me & Dry. Light piano enters with a melancholy feel before Erika sings solo, with time passing the layers are added with synthesizers and reversed percussion before the bass and guitar riff creating the climax with the refrain sung depressively "I'll come back to you in another life".
It's a sign of maturity and progression with the compact 'Milkman'. Erika adds delirious vocals to a wall of noise backed by reverberated drumming and aggressive synthesizers. The fast paced song is over before you can take it in. The noise shines bright with layer upon layer of distortion and reverb. Several synthesizer riffs take centre stage as Erika sings "'I am disparate". The multi-layered 'Coda' adds simplicity into EMA's sound. The layers of vocal harmonies create a free-form acapella track of 60 seconds.
The apathetic 'Marked' brings depression to the next level. The sadcore label can be stuck to this song with no feeling of regret. Erika sings in a quiet, hawkish fashion. Crisp guitar work sounds raw and passionate as the song progresses with bass and further percussion and brighter vocal delivery. 'Breakfast' is retrospective and brings to light an enshrined sound of apathy. I love the sharp vocal delivery and Bon Iver like guitar style. The bass moves in the right direction and sounds extremely remorseful, it's one of the bleaker, but mentionable songs on the album.
'Butterfly Knife' has the same noisy atmosphere as Milkman. It stretches the listeners attention with distorted guitar and noticeable heavy bass. Erika delivers a fast paced vocal in the first minute before the noise takes control seeing the track out. 'Red Star' opens with a reversed guitar and soft vocals by Erika. She gives a light hearted vocal effort with plenty of meaningful lyrics. Guitar riffs follow with the standing bass and layered vocals. This track is a perfect example of a build up, break down and then climax. It has perfect song structure and the heavy bass lets off this atmosphere of plurality. The explosive finale sums up this album, fast, deep, progressive and experimental. The sound is absolutely captivating, truly magnificent.