EMA is the solo performing moniker of guitarist/vocalist Erika M. Anderson, who shaped her experimental voice and guitar techniques in two well-regarded underground bands before setting off on her own.
Anderson, who moved to Los Angeles from South Dakota when she was 18, played guitar with folk-noise outfit Amps for Christ in the late '90s and early 2000s, then formed the psych-folk band Gowns in 2004 with former Mae Shi member Ezra Buchla. After making three albums, Gowns disbanded in early 2010, and Anderson began working on solo material that included that year's Night People release, Little Sketches on Tape. Her single Grey Ship arrived about a year later and boasted a 17-minute version of Robert Johnson's "Kind Hearted Woman" that managed to reinvent the song drastically while remaining true to its spirit. Her debut album, Past Life Martyred Saints, appeared on Souterrain Transmissions in mid-2011. It was widely praised in the music press and, despite minimal marketing, it led to headline tours across North America and Europe. The following year Anderson began work on her second full-length with musician Leif Shackelford in Portland, Oregon. Titled The Future's Void, it arrived via Matador Records in April 2014. She explored the album's concepts of virtual reality, consumerism, and identity further with I Wanna Destroy (Sacred Objects from Suburban Homes), an exhibit that incorporated Oculus Rift technology and showed at MoMA PS1 in New York and London's Barbican. Anderson and Shackelford's referential score to the cyberbullying film #Horror arrived at the end of 2015. Anderson worked with co-producer Jacob Portrait of Unknown Mortal Orchestra on 2017's Exile in the Outer Ring, an impression of nationalism, poverty, and alienation in the U.S. Midwest. ~ Heather Phares, Rovi