DVA is simply the Czech word for Two.
And DVA is the name of EMIKA‘s second awaited album, out in these days on Ninja Tune, a release that we all were waiting for.
She comes from England but has Czech origin and is a class ’86, she lives in Berlin where everything begun. Her electronic music’s visions are completely stunning, she is a sound engineer and has been responsible in 2010 of an amazing experiment, one of the most fascinating in all techno history, the compilation ‘Fünf’, made with Ostgut Ton label.
If you have ever been to Berghain, one of the most famous clubs in all Europe, you know that the building itself is an impressive box in which it seems everything has its own sound. Walls, stairs, the different spaces and floors, the attic, toilets, all the interior metal trims, bars, dark rooms and the outside areas, every single place has its own resonating chamber just like all the violins and cellos have inside their wooden heart. So Emika started from this concept asking herself how would Berghain sound like when the music is over, is there a sound that exists beyond the party? So she recorded all the noises, from the ventilation system to the strobe lights, backstage mirrors that vibrate and slamming doors, resonances from the bottles of drinks stored in the cooling rooms and moans of the metal interiors. And she played the results inside the club itself.
We think about 1969’s ‘I am sitting in a room’, the Alvin Lucier’s experiment we saw at Venice Biennale last year, if you record noises and sounds from an ambient and you play it back in the same space there are some frequencies, like bass tones and various other resonances, that gets multiplied and become louder and more present, it’s just like you hear echoes that starts to get degraded and distorted and the result is something unpredictable. No surprises then when we talk about Emika’s attitude to cross the borders between music genres, there’s no dub step anymore, no techno, no disco, everything has a unique soul, a brand new one. There are gothic atmospheres dressed in a pop outfit, some melancholic melodies thrown against walls of dark and violent bass.
We already loved the first episode of her career so much that we decide to give a first listen to this second album while walking through the places in which it has been conceived. We’re ‘Berliner’ for one day and we start from Warschauer Straße, going down in the direction of the railways into Helsingforser Straße. We walk a little following the wall on our left and we go straight down the end of the road. We take a deep breath and we press play, we let the cellos guide us until the entrance of the mesmerizing voice of Michaela Šrůmová, special guest in ‘Hush’. It is a little intro to the album but it tells a lot on what we could expect from DVA. She is damn serious here and we are aware of this from the very beginning.
When ‘Young Mind’ starts the street ends and a big area of work in progress cuts the asphalt and opens to a sort of cement plant with some abandoned buildings and trucks. In front of us the west side of the temple of techno, Berghain. ‘Who do you trust when the ideal falls?’ and from here we look right at the entrance of this industrial building and we understand immediately that her work with beats, rhythm and pulses led her to this new concrete sound. It’s her but she has a different attitude here, more catchy if we could dare. We are still staring at Berghain’s main entrance, no signs, no lights outside. In ‘She Beats’ she’s the noir lady who cast a spell on all of us with some dub step echoes but with a brand new synth beat made of cuts and unexpected breakdowns, a paranoid android electro woman with an impressive magical power. Her voice is enchanting and brings us to start again walking, this time out of the little road where every weekend lies the never-ending queue of people willing to enter the temple.
We proceed to Ostbahnhof and we follow ‘Filters’ and ‘After the Fall’ down tempos with sweet pianos and with her confident voice still whispering in our ears. We are walking down the old Berlin Mauer surrounded by the graffiti gallery to reach Oberbaumbrücke, this time we walk on it looking to the Spree and enjoying this wonderful spring air, we enter in Kreuzberg through the main door, from there we can see Jonathan Borofsky’s Molecule Man statue inside the river and as soon as we get on the other side we found Blu’s hourglass on the wall of a building. An iceberg is melting in the upper side while downstairs a city is waiting for its drops of water, the beauty of all this welcomes ‘Sing to Me’, one of the track previewed in ‘Searching’ EP last april. It marks the drift to the pop side of her world, and we keep walking.
Scent of spring flowers in our noses and a light that guide us inside the heart of Kreuzberg. Drawings from Blu are everywhere around here, the headless man whose hands are tied by two Rolex watches and the mysterious East/West masked figures are looking at us while Emika’s singing. We sit by the river and with ‘Dem Worlds’ the strings of the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra create one of the outstanding moments of this beautiful album that is ambitious, pretentious and, without doubts, full of incredible sparks. We are now floating in the water, holding our breath and swimming to nowhere. It’s a dreamy atmosphere that marks the middle of this musical journey into her complex world. Don’t forget that she is a sound designer, a brave producer and a reckless songwriter, she talks intimate about social diseases and political stuff, exploring breathtaking landscape and hidden treasures.
The eighth track of the album is called ‘Primary Colours’, it is a sophisticated ballad, one of the most beautiful episode of her entire work. Prepare to get lost into the darkest depth of Emika’s chills, to dive with her voice as a guide down the inner soul of a stunning song that goes on and on, in an unforgettable crescendo. We take a walk into Treptower Park and ‘Sleep with my Enemies’ is in our ears, it opens a new scenario where she starts playing with us beating every pulse with some elegant finger-click and singing concepts like ‘I sleep with my enemies, they’re the ones with passion for me’, everything sounds just beautiful in here.
We are lost in the middle of the abandoned amusement park, we can imagine to ride one of the tea cups or to roam like dinosaurs whose carcasses lie at the bottom of a big Ferris heel. We wander while the sun is leaving us and track by track we realize that we completely fell in love. The strings, the piano, all the chorus, the sound of every single piece of this musical poem is in the right place. There is a goth and dark atmosphere running through the entire album and our little trip inside Berlin goes on with ‘Fight for Your Love’ while we leave the metro from the external viaduct of Görlitzer Bahnhof’s station.
We go straight on Wiener Straße, passing near the Berliner Feuerwehr, the Kreuzberg’s Firemen Station, to reach Oranienstraße where we keep moving around and inside the heart of this passionate district, crossing people from everywhere and getting lost in the beauty of the cultural melting pot that Kreuzberg personifies. We walk, smiling and singing as in a new version of Massive Attack’s Unfinished Symphaty’s video and we let the vibes bring us wherever they want. The Turkish district is the perfect set for the long piano ballad ‘Mouth to Mouth’. Lights, noises from the streets, voices and cars, bikes and buses. Everything matches in the best possible way.
We cross the bridge of the Turkish market and we find ourselves in Neukölln where we have the time to think about the past in a very positive way, the tones are high and the song shines as another jewel of melancholy and sensuality. We’ve been hypnotized, that’s for sure, maybe from the start. The feelings we have are a mix of strength, consciousness, sadness and dark moods.
‘Searching’ and ‘Centuries’ are the perfect followers to this river of emotions. Powerful tracks that makes us dance in the shadow of some dub synth echoes with a voice that could belong to old school techno’s productions. We have walked down Hermannstraße and it has been like we’ve been dancing for a long time so that we go inside Hasenheide Volkspark to enjoy the last breath of this sparkling diamond of black dub pop. ‘Criminal Gift’ is a noise ballad where Emika’s voice says goodbye to us with an enviable self-confidence, talking and singing to the deepest part of our heart. We sit on the grass, breathing some fresh air and we still have her pulses beating in our rib cage. DVA is an elegant proof of what she’s capable of, designing every sound in an abstract palette full of shades and undertones.
The cover of Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’ is another outstanding evidence that proof her natural instinct to take out from every single performance an innate grace and a very personal touch. Connecting to her website you could join this beautiful version for the cost of your e-mail in her database. Our introspective trip to Berlin from Friedrichshain to Treptow, from Mitte to Neukölln, ends after these 15 tracks and we still feel like we have witnessed a modern opera made of classical glimmers and ultra modern intuitions, soprano’s tunes mixing to dub moans, innovation that meets handcrafted melodies. DVA is an erotic piece of cabaret that will keep this Ninja Tune’s girl between the most important and sensitive electronic music’s artists.
Text by: Gianni Chelli