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Boomkat Product Review:
Souterrain Tranmissions' scouring of the US underground has born considerable fruit in recent years, the German label bringing us key releases from Zola Jesus, Marnie Stern, CocoRosie and Moon Duo. Its latest signing is EMA, erstwhile frontwoman with Gowns, who unveils a debut album of real class and assurance. From its title you might be expecting some self-flagellating goth gear, but what you get is unreconstructed indie-rock at its most atmospheric and penetrating. 'The Grey Ship' begins in a reverb-heavy, lo-fi style and then, just as you think you've got a handle on it, there's a sudden shift into widescreen pop noir: replete with bass drone, whingeing synths, swampy guitars, Middle Eastern percussion and violins. Like the lovely MINKS record from earlier this year, Past Life Martyred Saints doesn't hide modestly behind a bedroom/DIY aesthetic; real care has gone into the production and instrumentation and making these songs sound as dynamic and full-bodied as possible. This gloss and ambition persists throughout the album, though admittedly some of its most satisfying moments are the most affectless - we think in particular of 'Anteroom' and 'Red Star', which sound like Kim Deal or Julianna Hatfield fronting Terror Twilight-era Pavement, and the exquisitely red-eyed and hungover acapella 'Coda'. EMA harks back to the golden age of 90s post-grunge, when lovelorn slackers with overdriven guitars looked set to inherit the earth. Remarkably, she pulls it off, making for a very satisfying and oddly nostalgic listen.