UK born and now based in Berlin, electronic producer, songwriter and vocalist Ema Jolly (aka Emika) previously graced us with last year’s ‘Melanfonie’ album, an ambitious crowdfunded collection that saw her collaborating with the 50 piece Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. A year on, this fifth album ‘Falling In Love With Sadness’, co-produced with Robert Witschakowski of The Exaltics, sees Emika returning to the synths and electronics-dominated construction of her earlier albums such as ‘Dva’ and ‘Drei’, but in many ways it’s a far lusher and pop hook-driven collection than anything else that she’s released so far.
While many of the songs here are much more big-sounding and immediate, the increased lushness of production hasn’t resulted in any of the characteristically intriguing and unusual elements lurking amidst them being subsequently buffed away. Instead, this is a consistently strong collection that manages to traverse a number of different electronic music genres with subtlety and ease, whilst also highlighting her continuing development as both a singer and songwriter.
Opening track ‘Wash It All Away’ immediately highlights the increased levels of sheen here as Emika’s breathy harmonies float against an opulent backing of rich ambient synths and feathery guitar strokes, providing a gorgeous beatless intro to this album that showcases the more melancholic elements just lurking below the surface of these songs.
‘Could This Be’ kicks the pace up a few notches as clattering drum machines, dark bass synth sequences and buzzing guitar riffs propel Emika’s edgy pop vocals in a direction that suggests pre-1989 East Berlin New Wave colliding head-on with La Roux and New Order, before ‘Run’ takes things off on a dark electro glide that sees her icy vocals taking centre-stage against epic, building synths and wiry guitar textures in a manner that evokes Depeche Mode’s stadium-sized electronics more than anything else.
Indeed, it’s perhaps the widescreen emotive fusions between pop and deeper electronics fashioned by the aforementioned Mode and similar practitioners such as Trentemoller that come to mind here. ‘Promises’ could easily pass for something off one of the latter’s more recent albums as clicking broken rhythms intersect with glittering synth sequences and an opulent sweep of moody synth orchestration, Emika’s vocals spectrally phasing against their lush backdrop, while elsewhere, ‘Killers’ sees the beats slowing down to a crunching hiphop crawl against spiralling layers of electronics, her blunt vocal payoff at the end counterbalancing the sense of ambient bliss building at the track’s core.
‘Falling In Love With Sadness’ is easily one of the most sophisticated and forward-thinking electronic pop albums that I’ve heard so far this year, as well as a new high point for Emika.