To some Emika is known for her forward-thinking electro infused pop. These productions bristle with brooding electronics that are shimmering with pop hooks and understated vocals - a true merging of underground club culture and mainstream pop perfection. But there’s another side to Emika. A side where elegant solo piano performances are the norm. This side was exposed on her 2015 album ‘Klavírní’, on which Emika delivered 13 minimal piano pieces that hinted at a fragility her electronic music only really hinted at. Now, five years later, Emika is returning to this sound on her new album ‘Klavírní Temná’.
Loosely translating as “dark piano" the album lives up to its name, with 14 tracks of solo piano performances. Throughout the opening salvo there are standard performances during which Emika delivers graceful melodies like ‘Dilo 21’ and ‘Dilo 22’, glorious in their self-imposed simplicity. Underpinning the melancholic tones is a delicate lilting beauty. ‘Dilo 23’ begins in a similar vein, with a sublime piano run, but throughout Emika manipulates the sounds to create slightly wooly, wonky motifs. There are no other elements, just piano, but though cleverly used electronica production, Emika starts to make the music warp into nocturnal pastels. Creating dreamlike environments in which our imaginations can wonder.
‘Dilo 31’ is another example of this. Opening with a bright piano run, Emika soon starts to mess with the soundscape, everything slowing down, meandering into woozy new territory. At first it’s a bit of a “Wait, what…?” moment, which is exactly what Emika’s after. Instead a passive listen, she wants us to interact with the project. Similarly, on ‘Dilo 34’ she creates a loop that’s hard to determine – is it playing forward or backwards?? – before a droney outro closes the album.
‘Klavírní Temná’ is a project underpinned by a feeling a flux. The lighter pieces seemingly cast long shadows underneath them, shadows filled with questions of good and evil, right and wrong, along with death and rebirth. When the album was initially recorded, Emika was pregnant with her first child, and the mastering happened after her daughter was born. During this process she questioned her artistic future, and what having a child would mean for this side of her life.
These questions can be felt in throughout the album. From time to time Emika drops in motifs of anxiety or unease but these are overridden by a gentle reassurance that everything will be ok. Despite being called “dark piano”, there is a lot of positivity and hope here. And so there should be. Emika has successfully navigated a career through club culture, to synth pop, concert halls, art galleries and now even motherhood. She’s faced these challenges with impressive determination - while the title of this project might be dark piano, a more fitting on might be ‘Klavirni Aspirace’: piano aspiration.
Words: Nick Roseblade
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