West Oakland has been kind to Erika M. Anderson.

West Oakland has been kind to Erika M. Anderson.

"Most everyone says, 'Hi, how you doing?' It's a friendly spot," said Anderson, who performs experimental folk, rock and pop under the name EMA. "It's much more dangerous to be young, teenage and black there than it is for me there, as long as I don't go outside at night."

But, "If people wanted to shoot you, West O would be the place to do it."

Anderson, who formerly played with sonically confrontational folk acts like Gowns and Amps For Christ, credits her Bay Area environment for inspiring some of the most stunning moments on EMA's acclaimed debut, "Past Life Martyred Saints."

Specifically, the stirring free-form noise-pop ramble "California" is the unexpected result of Anderson's attempt to adopt a West Oakland hip-hop persona. The influence of NoCal rap's garbled guru Lil B is palpable, even if the final product sounds more like one of Kim Gordon's rants with Sonic Youth.

"I want to make a piano rap ballad. That's what I wanted 'California' to be. But I can't actually rap like that. It would just be extremely, extremely terrible," Anderson said. "I think it comes across as like really fresh because it's not something a lot of people would even think of trying."

Of course, that song begins with the phrase "F--- California! You made me boring!" so her relationship with the Sunshine State is not entirely sunny.

"I'm from the Midwest originally. I'm from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Some people say that is not the Midwest, but to me Chicago's basically East Coast," Anderson said. "When I was growing up in South Dakota, I could see somebody wrestling chairs. Do you do that, or do you go out and listen to a DJ and eat sushi? Which is actually crazier?"

From Anderson's perspective, decrying the sacred cow of California seems far more incendiary than spitting bile at a typically polarizing figure like Barack Obama.

While such an approach seems geared toward the punk tradition of undermining expectations and eliciting reactions, one of the most punk things about "Past Life Martyred Saints" is its relatively accessible slant compared with Anderson's previous work.

"I was really thinking there was a lot of unspoken rules in the underground noise scene, resistance to things like lyrics and singing and melody," Anderson said. "And I was just like, the whole point of any of this is to experiment."

The tour that brings EMA to The Summit on Saturday - Anderson's first visit since Gowns played Skylab a few years back -features her sister on drums and backup vocals plus Oakland mainstay Leif Shackelford on keyboards and viola. Bassist Aaron Davis might come along, too.

"It's kind of like a rock band right now," Anderson said. "We'll see if it stays rock band or it gets weirder."