“Past Life Martyred Saints”
Kindred spirits: Hole, Tricky, Cat Power
Show: With Helado Negro and Hayes Holladay on Sunday at the Red Palace. Show starts at 8:30 p.m. 202-399-3201. www.redpalace
dc.com. $8 in advance, $10 at the door.
An epic tale of adolescent yearning and adult disenchantment, the EMA track “California” is an autobiographical novel condensed into 41 / 2 minutes of coos, barks and drones — with lines from “Camptown Races” and Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love” inserted for good measure. And that’s just one of nine potent songs on “Past Life Martyred Saints,” an album whose emotional candor is matched by its musical ingenuity.
EMA is Erika M. Anderson, formerly of the similarly moody Gowns, a San Francisco quartet. Her former bandmates are heard on some of these songs, but EMA can create sweeping drama all by herself. This album, her solo debut, is constructed mostly of voice, synths and guitar (both strummed acoustic and squalling electric). Some passages are a cappella or accompanied by only the starkest of sounds.