Really only a few years into what promises to be a long, exciting recording and performing career, Emika, once knee-deep in the Bristol dubstep scene and now residing in Berlin, is proving to be something of a Bowie-esque shapeshifter, equal parts ice and heat, dark and light, greasepaint and wounded flesh. On Drei, she´s an avant-pop deconstructionist, the deadpan sister Kraftwerk never had (if they had invited a guest guitarist to tear off a couple of solos), a thin white duchess singing angular interrogations and confessionals in pastel light. To enhance your enjoyment of Drei, her eponymous label has just released a slab of remixes.
But I want to backtrack to something that captured my attention earlier in the year and hasn´t let go since, and I´ll begin by backing up even further. In 1985, Brian Eno released one of his best records ever – under his brother Roger´s name. Voices consists of eleven solo piano pieces composed and played by Roger Eno, with ever-so-delicate but oh-so-compelling electronic treatments, just the gentlest of brushstrokes, by Brian.
Laced up tight and draped loosely in every texture of black from head to toe, classically trained Emika has done something similar but without sibling support. Her Klavírní consists of sixteen pieces all called “Dilo” (which may mean “work” in Czech) and numbered, played on a Karl Müller piano (in Milton Keynes – from her childhood home?), an instrument with oodles of personality. Each is exquisite, chamber music for a rainy afternoon whiled away in the salon that would sound just as right on a soft, warm night spent on the patio with stiff drinks.
Like Eno before her, she discreetly treats her playing at judicious moments. A note curlicues off and ties itself into a bow. An X-ray passes down the restless leg of the piano and exposes its bones. The crepuscular, echoey fifteenth piece turns a corner of the lid into brown sugar and crumbles. Beautifully executed, touching and memorable as a love letter.