Noise-rocker EMA inspired by void 

Ever since she was a teen in South Dakota, Erika M. Anderson — who records and performs as EMA — has gazed deep into the abyss for inspiration, and she’s aware of the Nietzsche corollary that the abyss stares, also.

“So a lot of themes in my work are about making something out of the void. The void just sucks me back in every once in awhile, so I try and give it shapes,” says the musician, who plays from her new album “The Future’s Void” in San Francisco this week.

While that may be bleak and depressing, she says, “Basically, if there’s no point to anything, then you might as well make art.”

That’s how Anderson, 32, arrived at the cathartic recording, with its Nico-meets-noise-rock dirges “Solace,” “Satellites” and “Dead Celebrity,” plus two literary gems, “Cthulu” and “Neuromancer,” rooted in authors H.P. Lovecraft and William Gibson, respectively.

“I didn’t set out to make something prescient,” she says of the eerie effort. “I just let my subconscious write the songs, and then sometimes they come true.”

The “Void” cover photo — in which EMA is sporting a pair of 3-D gaming goggles — was taken months before Facebook’s controversial purchase of virtual-reality pioneer Oculus Rift.

Before the National Security Agency scandal, she wrote songs focusing on surveillance, big data and their attendant paranoia: “Multiple things that later became topical,” she says. “Like these Soviet satellite states, too, and then you have Russia acting like there’s a new Cold War, with tensions rising. Maybe my subconscious knows something.”

Anderson experienced her first void in the flat, uninspiring Midwest — “where you grow up trying to create meaning in your life in a place that doesn’t give you any satisfactory answers,” she says.

Eventually, she moved to Oakland, where she worked as a substitute teacher from 2005 to 2011 (she has since relocated to Portland), and seized any creative opportunity. After seeing the numbers 4 and 33 on a piece of paper, she had her third-grade class stage an impromptu version of John Cage’s avant-garde “4’33”” composition. She also played students her own material, anonymously, “and they said really funny things, like ‘Is this a man or a woman singing?’” she says.

She always can sense the next void approaching. “I’m learning how to trust myself, that I’m going to make work to get through it,” she says. “But hey — a contented life would just be boring, right?”



Where: Independent, 628 Divisadero St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday

Tickets: $15 Contact: (415) 771-1421,

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