In May this year South Dakota’s Erika M. Anderson (EMA) released her first LP Past Life Martyred Saints. A difficult record to listen to, its theme’s of abuse, alienation, obsession and sorrow will be too much for some to endure. However those that persevere will be richly rewarded as the record is both discomforting and achingly beautiful.
‘Marked’ is my favourite song from the album which apparently “came out fully formed in one take” Sonically the song is a fairly sparse affair, where no sound is superfluous or wasted and every layer has been added with the most deliberate purpose. The track opens with a plodding acoustic guitar that’s heavy on string shifting squeaks and where Anderson’s voice rasps amongst the notes. This simplicity forms a backdrop against which the lyrics paint a disturbing picture.
For when Anderson sing’s “Don’t you know that I would never hurt you? You are such a pretty thing” it sounds as if she’s recalling a promise made to her rather than by her. Something that becomes clearer when she starts to repeat “I wish that every time he touched me left a mark” Allowing her listeners a few moments to question. What do those two statements mean in context of each other? What happened to her? The answers your imagination come back with are universally abhorrent. So much so that when the warming organ washes in and disperses these dark thoughts it comes as a palpable relief.
The skill EMA displays in leading you along these paths of emotion is subtle and will take multiple listens to fully appreciate, but once you do the song becomes something truly extraordinary.
EMA’s Past Life Martyred Saints is available to buy now from 7 digital and all good record shops