In September 2015, the Washington Post ran a feature called ‘An American Void’. It follows the day-to-day lives of the Meek family, who occasionally housed Dylann Roof in the days and weeks before he walked into Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and shot dead nine black attendees, an act he had hoped would spark a race war. What was most captivating about Stephanie McCrummen’s story was its focus on the peripheries of the event, the sheer ordinariness of the lives that orbited Roof’s.
This proved to be one of several cultural and political backdrops that informed Erika M. Anderson’s concept of ‘the outer ring’, the economic dead space outlined on her third album as EMA, Exile in the Outer Ring. (Enormously articulate and well-read, Anderson lights up when I ask her about literary influences and confesses she’s been meaning to compile a ‘reading list’ to accompany the record.) Her definition for the Quietus seemed succinct enough: “It’s the estuary between where the people who are being forced out of the cities, due to being economically disadvantaged, meet with the people who having to leave the countryside in order to get jobs.”
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