For the fifteenth edition of Functions Of The Now we’re extremely pleased to present a long time Truants favourite E.M.M.A. The world’s first introduction to E.M.M.A. came via clubnight-turned-label Wavey Tones’s inaugural release Rainbow Dust Part II, featuring the exceptional grime-gone-funky banger “Dream Phone”, but 2013 was the year her musical identity solidified. Appearing as part of Keysound’s new wave on scene-defining compilation This Is How We Roll, E.M.M.A. was presented as part of a united front that also featured Rabit, Wen, Beneath, Visionist, Mumdance and Logos. Of course, anybody listening to this music in 2015 will appreciate how prescient the A&Ring was there. While it took a little longer for some of her compilation compatriots to produce their statements of intent – indeed, some are forthcoming this Autumn – E.M.M.A.’s album came mere months after the release, the culmination of years spent honing her sound behind closed doors.
Despite the melodic, synth-heavy focus of her music, E.M.M.A. eschews the usual tropes that have come to dominate the instrumental grime of the 2010s: there are no Wiley-style square waves to be found here, and her UK Funky inspired rhythms combine uniquely with a Baroque melodic sensibility with results altogether more playful than some of her more downtrodden and sombre peers. This is suitably reflected on her and Aimee Cliff’s Radar Radio show Angel Food, for our money the most fun to be found on the increasingly vital young station. Although E.M.M.A.’s release schedule has slowed since Blue Gardens landed, her Functions Of The Now mix hints at the wealth of dubplates waiting to be unleashed, including the exquisitely titled Magna Kanye. Elsewhere, she finds common ground with producers on the dreamier end of grime: rising star Iglew, Gobstopper Records label head Mr Mitch and Coyote Records affiliate Tom E. Vercetti (solo and together with his production trio Silk Road Assassins) all make an appearance.
Before that though we have some recommendations, and because of the sheer volume of incredible mixes we’ve been hammering recently this time it’s a mixfile special. First up is essential mix series Sister. Created with the aim of solidifying a network of women within underground club music, every instalment is mixed by a woman and every track in every mix involves a woman in its creation. Particular favourites are series instigator Toxe’s inaugural edition, Bearcat’s mix of feminist ragga and Evolver promoter Malin’s doom-laden set of club abstractions. While we’re on the subject of Malin, her contribution to Tobago Tracks was the perfect pre-drinking soundtrack before the Pan x Janus showcase at Corsica Studios last Friday, and is well worth your time. Suffice to say she’s quickly becoming one of our favourite DJs. Elsewhere Rabit continues his rude form with a dizzying mix of collaborations with Non Records’ Chino Amobi, brilliantly titled “The Great Game: Freedom From Mental Poisoning (The Purification Of The Furies)”. It seems like Rabit’s new label Halycon Veil will be remaining closely aligned with Non after their co-release of Angel-Ho’s debut EP, and fans of the likes of steely production unit Amnesia Scanner would do well to keep their eyes on what comes next. Finally Ghazal, co-label head of potent party starters Staycore, contributed a wonderful mix as a companion piece to The Dance Pit’s latest Club Etiquette zine. If you haven’t read them already, the first two editions are here and here, and contain vital musings on how to make club spaces safer and more inclusive for people of all genders, sexualities, ethnicities and backgrounds.
Oli Grant caught up with E.M.M.A. over a series of emails to talk about her current musical movements and the status of those highly sought after dubplates.
Hi Emma, thanks for joining us. You’ve been out and about a lot recently, playing at Converge’s 1st birthday and for Coyote Records x War Child – how were those nights? “Converge was really fun, love those guys. A lot of my friends came down which was jokes and Rye Wax is managed by one of my oldest friends so it felt very familiar. It was nice to play Waiting Rooms for War Child; Tomas Coyote, Yamaneko and Moleskin have been very supportive of my stuff since day one.” How do you compare DJing to producing in terms of satisfaction? “Probably about the same but in different ways. I like seeing people’s reactions and shaping my set. Obviously I am a producer first though and making a sick beat or working with other people is always gonna make me get out of bed in the morning.”
What’s the optimum club environment for you, either to play in or as a punter? Have you been to any events of interest recently? “I’m not a big clubber. I’ll go to nights my friends are doing because I like their music and I like them, and you know you’ll have fun. Last time I was a genuine punter was for Kanye at Glastonbury, and the last thing I went to in London – which kinda blew my mind – was Arca playing in a church a couple of months back.”
We went to your Emerald City event at Power Lunches – memories of a really nutty set from Acre and wicked sets from you and Mokadem – it was great. Are there plans to hold any more? “Thanks! I am going to do another one but I’m working on some other things at the moment. Me and Aimee Cliff started Angel Food on Radar and we have a very clear idea of what we want to do with that, which is exciting. Also I played with a couple of vocalists, Inja and Amy True, on a collab for a live performance at the Kings Place Music Festival on September 11, called The Lost Souls Project, funded by the Arts Council.”
Reminiscing about your track Jahovia with Rebel MC on Blue Gardens, it’s exciting to hear you are working with more vocalists. What is the Lost Souls Project all about? “We were given a theme by the organisers of “Expressionism” so we’ve been working to a brief. It’s been really cool to hear the melodies Amy has brought to it with her singing and also Inja’s creativity. The track turns into sort of jungle at the end which reminded me how fun it is to make.”
That’s awesome – sounds like a unique opportunity. You also put together a mix inspired by specific art work for the Tate once too – do you often draw inspiration from visual art or ideas outside of music when producing? “Sometimes, if I see a film I like but that’s often the visual wrapped up with the soundtrack, so the general mise-en-scène. I don’t take literal references from art often but if I see a play or something which is immersive and completely unique, I guess I’ll make a mental note and remind myself that’s the standard I should be achieving in my music.”
Back to Radar Radio –how did the link up with Aimee come about? Is there a general theme for the show? “Me and Aimee have been friends for a hot minute – it’s a meeting of minds. We were drinking beers in a graveyard after a night out and had the epiphany that we should combine forces to do a supershow based on all the tasty emojis. Our musical vibe is sad and sexy with a hint of stunting on everyone else in the game.” Were radio shows influential for you growing up? “Tim Westwood was my favourite radio show back in the day. I liked how he used to re-load one beat he liked over and over again with all the bomb sound effects. I also got shouted out on it a few times as my alias “Rocky D” so I suppose that was my only tangible connection to the airwaves, until I launched my own show in university called “Heat in da Streetz” with my best mate Jo. That was epic af. I used to take CDs of Mobb Deep instrumentals and we would cipher. The American rapper Grafh did the show intro – thank god for MySpace.”
Are you listening to much contemporary music outside of your production circles? “Yeah there’s lots of great music around at the moment – I love Tei Shi and Keiya, I play them a lot when I’m at home too. I am inspired by their energy and where the music comes from. With all the music that I like, it comes from somewhere meaningful.”
You released an album fairly early on in your discography, would you like to work with that format again if the opportunity arose? You seem to have a lot of dubs circulating at the moment. “Yeah that album was a culmination of six years of my life, even though it seemingly came out of nowhere. Maybe I should have been releasing EPs in 2007 by music industry logic. I will do another album but I’m enjoying smaller projects at the moment. It doesn’t make sense for me to churn out another one ASAP considering what I know I put in to the first one. I’ve got lots of dubs but I’m quite precious about them because there’s a fine line between putting everything out there and propagating this disposable culture.” Are you working on any releases at the moment? “I’ve got a few things on the go, including something I want to do myself.”
Finally, that Lost Encarta Files mix you put out ages ago is a Truants favourite, and it’s great to now have you make one for FOTN – how did you go about selecting tracks for it? “Glad you guys liked it. These are just a selection of the kind of stuff I love at the moment. You can call it an Angel Food mix, as I’ve mos def bumped these on our show!”
1. Lil Jabba – Sooth
2. Tom E. Vercetti – Sketches
3. OBESØN ft Cheney – Say My Name
4. E.M.M.A – Sorbet
5. E.M.M.A – Bijoux De Diamants
6. E.M.M.A- Magna Kanye
7. Silk Road Assassins – Moon Shard
8. Iglew – Snowdrops
9. Mr Mitch – Phantom Prophet
10. Callahan – Basement Serial
11. SBTRKT – Paper Cuts
Artwork: Joe Jackson