Avalon Emerson's musical identity was forged on the dancefloor, but her outlook has never been limited to the confines of the club. Quite frankly, it's not limited to anything.
A San Francisco native who grew up in Arizona and first found her artistic footing while DJing at raucous Bay Area warehouse parties, Emerson -- who moved to Berlin in 2014 and quickly became a regular behind the decks at the city's famed Berghain -- now stands as one of dance music's most celebrated contemporary figures. Having played all around the world, she's the rare DJ who can move seamlessly between the sweaty confines of clubs like Nowadays and massive festivals like Coachella, Primavera Sound and Glastonbury, and though she's known for her intensely technical approach to the craft, she's beloved for her melody-rich, genre-agnostic selections. An Avalon Emerson DJ set will weave together house, techno, disco and rave obscurities, but she'll also move from Talking Heads to Two Shell and Nine Inch Nails to Underworld, and once she gets into the studio, her production work employs a similarly free-flowing philosophy. Her 2016 breakthrough "The Frontier" was named one of the decade's top 20 tracks by Resident Advisor, and in the wake of its success, she's also been tapped to remix the likes of Slowdive, Robyn, Four Tet, Christine and the Queens, and Octo Octa, among many others.
With that resume, Emerson could have easily stayed in the dance music lane and continued to relentlessly tour as a DJ, but even before lockdown suddenly brought parties to a halt, she was itching to do more. There's always been a pop undercurrent to her work, but taking a break from the road provided Emerson with an opportunity to explore it more thoroughly. Her charming cover of The Magnetic Fields' "Long-Forgotten Fairytale," which opened her acclaimed 2020 DJ-Kicks mix, provided a preview of that inclination -- and also introduced the world to her singing voice -- but on her debut album Avalon Emerson & The Charm, she's left the DJ booth altogether, venturing into an intimate strain of synth-pop informed by her love of avant-pop auteurs.
That wasn't the only change Emerson made. She now splits her time between Berlin and the Catskill Mountains, and while rural environs of the latter afford a certain level of isolation, they've also led her to seek out like-minded artists like never before. After all, the best pop music is rarely made alone, and while The Charm is still very much Emerson's vision, it's also something she sees as an ongoing, ever-shifting collaboration. On the LP, that meant working in the studio and hashing out songs with Bullion. On stage, it means performing live with her wife Hunter Lombard and old friend Keivon Hobeheidar, and when it comes to remixes, she'll be teaming up with any number of friends from the world of dance music. The Charm has no fixed roster and no fixed rules; it's a vehicle for expression and connection, with Emerson at the helm. Where she goes next is anyone's guess, but that uncertainty, and that freedom of vision, is what makes her such a uniquely compelling artist.