Album Review: EMERGER flourishes with unique local alt-pop sound on “Bloom”

EMERGER. Photo: PIeter de Jager
EMERGER. Photo: PIeter de Jager

From the vast landscape of dream like alternative pop, a new breed of musical prowess has manifested from the scene. In a sense you can say that they have emerged into one of SA’s most exiting musical offerings.

EMERGER released their debut album, Bloom, earlier in May this year and this alt-pop duo, consisting of Emma de Goede and Gerrit Matthee has since then garnered critical acclaim for their work. The debut single “Break & Fall” was also the winner of the Avid and Abbey Road Studios International Song Contest, picked from nearly 5000 international entries.

Both musicians graduated with BMus degrees at the University of Cape Town and their knowledge of music and song writing ability and instrumental aptitude is prevalent on Bloom.

Here is a track by track review on what to expect from EMERGER:

  1. Hindsight

The soothing keys and synth in the intro gets your attention from the onset before De Goede’s voice holds it in the inspiring verse. De Goede’s vocal range and ability is one of the highlights on this opening track: “I can see it in reflective light. My perspective has been shifted right-side up. Once oblivious, becoming obvious. Staring me deep in the eyes. Slowly I’m starting to realise. In hindsight we’ll overcome the fading daylight and follow the winds of change. Time can only try to give us insight ‘Cause we will never stop this fight.”

The track has a serene and uplifting pace to it and it really flows well throughout. Nice touches such as a short guitar interlude from Matthee in the bridge of the song gives the song some extra character.

The main idea behind the track is that sometimes in hindsight we get to see how pieces of the puzzle fit, how time heals us as we get our fire back.

  1. Break & Fall

EMERGER’s breakout single got the attention of the masses and this award-winning track focusing on romantic love and the various ups and downs is a sure fire winner. The track has great production value with various instrumental pieces and melodies create a whole feeling to the track. Whether it is a dreamlike piano melody or a constant pulsating drum beat, this track will keep your attention both sonically and lyrically. The honest and relatable lyrics that open up the song is one of the band’s best: “My heart’s on my sleeve and thinking kills me. What do I want? What do you want? What do we want? Tell me.” A lot of times love and unrequited love can cause a lot of heartache and questions and the theme here represents this heartache. “Don’t bend back man you’ll break and fall. Don’t lose hold and let go. Sooner than you hoped for sooner than you know.”

De Goede also showcases her vocal pipes on this track to perfection when she sings “we break and fall,” from the top of her lungs. The piano outro is also one of my favourite parts with its haunting melody.

  1. Urban Wilderness

“There is a mountain in my town. Rising up between two oceans It is the keeper of a gateway Leading to a flood of emotions.”

It is lyrics like this that keep EMERGER on top of their game and why there debut album is filled with quality. The track opens up with a usual synth and piano based pattern before a soulful few bass guitar notes fill things up, before the chorus hits. The track focuses on finding yourself amid the many distractions in the world and urban wilderness surrounding us. This is just a classy and soulful track that whispers tranquillity into your soul.

EMERGER at Abbey-Road

EMERGER at Abbey Road

  1. Prelude For You

The acoustic guitar melody on “Prelude For You” is one of my favourite parts of the album together with the atmospheric background synth sounds that morph into a visceral piano melody. The multi-layered approach works brilliantly in this track and the song seems to gain audibility and an extra layer with each musical part. The waterfall like sound effects and chime sounds create a peaceful atmosphere throughout the song, without overcomplicating the song. This love song also contains some of the most beautiful lyrics from EMERGER: “Lay your head on my chest so that you can hear my heartbeat start to race. Breathe into my neck as we synchronise and dissipate. Disappear without a trace like floating stardust into outer space.”

  1. Nomadic Love

This intriguing title of the song is just as intriguing and encapsulating as the music in this track which opens up with a wonderful piece of synth and key inspired notes. The song has a truly magic quality to it and it can truly evoke images in your mind when paired with the lyrics which focuses on the search for love and how these nomadic nature and pursuit are often intrinsically tied together.  The chorus is truly golden as De Goede and Matthee’s vocals combine perfectly. De Goede’s soulful voice hits just the right notes whilst Matthee’s deeper backing vocals add something extra to the sonic nature of the chorus:  “We can find a way to escape. Over distant troubled waters. Seeking love, adventure and fate in the infinite abyss. Together we can be nomadic lovers and navigate this never-ending journey.”

  1. Bloom

The title track of the album is a tiny showcase of this band’s ability to create and bind together various sounds, instruments and layers to create an utterly captivating alt-pop sound. This is something you could easily listen to whilst relaxing outside in nature or just chilling on your couch. The beauty of this instrumental track lies in its many facets and elements and it warrants more than one listen to appreciate all the elements, whether it is the acoustic guitars, humming bass, or hi hat beats on the drums that tie the synth elements together.

  1. Hindsight (Reprise)

EMERGER spices things up with this short and sweet gem on Bloom that is a continuation of the themes in the first track. The electric guitar solo adds a nice touch as well as the bright and bristling keys that finishes the song. De Goede’s vocals “Baby don’t you remember how we fell in love over that December we spent chasing the sunlight all the time, trying to forget the moment we stopped To feel alive,” flows terrifically in this number and the overall pacing in this song just takes it up a notch.

  1. Urban Wilderness (Extended)

This extended version of “Urban Wilderness” just adds something extra for listeners of this track and is a sweet surprise. It has the same themes and musical quality with a few extra bells and whistles. A pretty cool way to end the album.

EMERGER is definitely one of the bands to look out for in the future with a debut album also in the offering soon. For now, Bloom can whet your appetite for something greater and even more expansive and expressive from this duo.

Wouter Pienaar
Sport Journalist

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