Mad Madam Em began her musical journey in 2003, playing bass for the San Diego based industrial / electro band ‘Bishop Buzzkill’. In 2005, she began to experiment with keys, synths, drum programming and vocal sequencing, and quickly fell in love with electronic music production and music composition. In early 2014 the sole-member project, Plike, was born, and the following November the debut album, “47th Helen”, was released. This was followed by the EPs, “Empathetic Apathy” and “Empty Mirrors”, and now, the 2016 album release, “Red Queen, White Queen”.
The songs on “Red Queen, White Queen” are languid, sensuous, swathed in ennui and melancholy. All the songs are woven by the same magical fabric, a quality I like in an album (as opposed to a hodgepodge). To make the recording all the more wondrously tormenting, Plike’s dreamy, ethereal persona is very attractive…irresistible even.
I take to things that are mystically dark and brooding, whether it’s in art or music. Plike was a complete unknown to me until I recently heard this album and was immediately taken by what was emanating from the sound system. The music sort of makes you want to be this woman’s slave. And when you see a picture of her, you know you’re right on target too.
Listening to this beautiful recording of Plike gorgeously cinematic songs lulls me into a state of serene quietude, unlike anything else in my album collection. I sincerely recommend this to anyone wanting something beautiful, elegant and unique like Plike herself.
Right from the opening track, “The Proving Grounds”, her vocals, together with the layered harmonies, and electronic soundscapes are so richly textured you’ll find it extremely addictive. The piano-dominated sound of “Never Always” is so beautiful and intriguing you want to press your headphones closer to your ears to get everything inside your head.
Plike’s vocal skills are also perfectly sharpened here. Not that she gets operatic or anything, but she reveals varying nuances of purring, crooning and tonal hooks that simply pull you deep into the song.
That this hypnotic music is also very potent, we can gauge from “Stigmatized”, with its driving percussion and spoken word interludes. But as the album moves forward, the mood just gets more atmospheric and spellbinding.
Plike’s ethereal voice will floor you on “Rabbit Hole”, and that quality is embellished on “A Bottled Marked Poison” and “Dust” where she increases the mystical and morphia dosages.
Most of the songs use the device of shifting downbeat, through the layering of gentle vocal harmonies, the fading in and out of electronic echoes, and percussive punctuations. Overall, this reinforces that dreamy, overall effect which is staggering.
Plike’s vocals dance around the other instrumentation, and every now and then the vocals double up with a harmony that seems like a reflection shimmering on the water. The lyrics remain impressionistic, full of mystery, suggesting much without getting pinned down.
Plike’s voice – sensual and echoey – hits you like a dream, with fragments of imagery that resist explanation, reflecting an uncompromising artist, with her creativity and integrity intact.