Avalon Emerson: “Sandrail Silhouette”

Avalon Emerson is hard to pin down: In recent years, the Berlin-based DJ-producer has released an aerodynamic techno project with Anunaku; an EP of whimsical, depressurized electronic compositions; and a couple of funky, raw-edged remixes for King Princess. The biggest left-turn of all, though, may have been the cover of the Magnetic Fields’ “Long-Forgotten Fairytale” that opened her 2020 DJ-Kicks mix. Faithful and brilliant, it was a surprising fake-out that swapped Stephen Merritt’s jangling production for bright, gloopy synthwork without losing the original’s mixture of sarcasm and sincerity.

Emerson’s latest track, “Sandrail Silhouette,” indicates that that gear shift into indie-pop wasn’t a one-off. (It was co-produced with London musician Bullion, who had encouraged her to record the Magnetic Fields cover.) A first glimpse at her debut full-length Avalon Emerson & the Charm, it’s a gorgeous, vocal-led reverie that nods to the undulating textures of ’90s electronica as well as the diffuse moods of cult pop artists like Scribble and Anna Domino. Emerson’s dazed vocals are breathy and serene, hiding anxieties about the passing of time: “Tell me I got more time/When all my friends are having daughters/Beautiful just like them of course/A reason for an optimistic view.” Underneath the jangly percussion and shaggy guitar, strings bloom like flowers after a storm. Although the indie pop pivot comes as a surprise, “Sandrail Silhouette” ultimately feels like it’s part of the same bright, windswept world as her 060 EP, and it shows that Emerson might be just as compelling a frontwoman as she is a DJ.