Emma Ruth Rundle
On Dark Horses


4.0
excellent

Review

by Chamberbelain CONTRIBUTOR (193 Reviews)
September 14th, 2018 | 44 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Emma Ruth Rundle finds redemption through acceptance.

Emma Ruth Rundle’s third album, “Marked for Death”, was a word-of-mouth marvel in 2016. Smothered in trauma and tormented with rare glimpses of respite, that album was a harrowingly personal journey through the headspace of its creator at the time. It seems fitting then that its successor, “On Dark Horses”, reveals a liberating quality, a desire to break free or at least come to terms with past anxieties and sufferings while retaining her intimately honest songwriting.

In terms of technique, little has changed when comparing her two most recent outputs together. Instead, it is the overall mood of “On Dark Horses”that reveals itself as a different creature to its predecessor. Before, guitars drenched in reverberation would crash over you like relentless waves, eroding your stony spirit piece by piece over time. Now, they exhibit a warmer, shimmering allure, where the reverb envelops you in a tangibly comfortable embrace. Initially, “Light Song” sounds grim, where murky vocals apathetically trudge through downtrodden melodies, however, the song materialises into something hypnotically uplifting as the melodies and her voice gradually becomes brighter and lighter. It’s incredible to hear how an artist’s state of mind can influence the atmosphere of music while the physical techniques of creating it remain virtually unchanged.

Many find that it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what is so alluring about Emma Ruth Rundle’s music, however, the answer is revealed most visibly on this album: it’s not that the music is simply dark. The atmosphere is, at face value, ‘dark’, but when you look further than that you discover the atmosphere is dark because it’s layered with subtle details- plodding drums timed to gently emphasise the mournful aura and how her voice occasionally quivers with hope amongst her own sorrowful lyrics, for example. “Control” expands in pressure repetitively until the chorus breaks free of restraint so the guitars flourish behind her soaring vocals. Free from the repetitive groove, inquisitive pattering melodies appear before the song hits its climax when the guitar’s reverb swells as if finally stretching from the inertia of control. Due to how obviously ‘dark’ these songs are, these minute magical moments may be overlooked by some despite how crucial they are in producing the album’s face-value.

Undeniably, her voice is the main attraction. Somehow, she is able to conjure feelings of opposing forces-relief and regret, comfort and anxiety, desire and sorrow- and persuade them to cooperate in unison to produce a hauntingly beautiful sound powered by personal experiences. Though it sounds like her voice is covered by a gossamer layer of smoke, these honest narratives materialise most noticeably in moments of calm reflection during sympathetic songs such as “Darkhorse” where she expresses a yearning desire for freedom. Emma’s voice commands such a strong presence that the instrumentation often gravitates around whatever she is expressing at the time. Lazy chords and dreamy melodies drift around her sleepy singing during the wonderful “Races”, meanwhile, “Fever Dreams”, a song about feeling as if fear is an inescapable sensation, evokes restlessness with a persistent drumbeat always lurking in the background no matter how her lyrics and voice express how desperately she is trying to rid herself of fear.

Whereas artists such as Chelsea Wolfe and King Woman are detouring form their folksy roots and curiously investigating how heavier methods such as murky electronics or a more dedicated focus on grooves can influence their music, Emma Ruth Rundle refines her craft further by creating an album as melancholic as her peers without cherry-picking from neighbouring genres and expertly sewing subtle intricacies into her minimalistic music to create something that sounds genuinely redemptive.



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user ratings (38)
Chart.
3.9
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
Dewinged
September 14th 2018


11061 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Well, guess I'm not in a hurry anymore for writing a review of this thing ;) Thanks Chamb, nice one.



I haven't fully connected with it yet, it seems less accessible than "Marked" and "Some Heavy Ocean", there is so much drone, so much reverb, I'm missing the brief acoustic respites of the previous albums, when she sounds closer, but still, the album is a work of wonder.

Digging: Emma Ruth Rundle - On Dark Horses

neekafat
September 14th 2018


12137 Comments


Too many good indie folk gals out this year ughhhhh will jam ofc

Dewinged
September 14th 2018


11061 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

This has 0% folk on it Neek, drone, doom and post rock if anything.

neekafat
September 14th 2018


12137 Comments


Still gonna jam, I dug Chelsea Wolfe a lot last year so couldn't hurt

Dewinged
September 14th 2018


11061 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Think about Ben Howard's latest atmosphere with a heavier turn.

budgie
September 14th 2018


5439 Comments


lol dewi, i think i like this more than heavy ocean/marked

Dewinged
September 14th 2018


11061 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

But... but... you said it was the worst alb... Aaaaahhh I see what you did there.

robotmagician
September 14th 2018


878 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

man there’s just something about her voice. Don’t know how to describe it but i’m not sure i’ve heard anything else like it. the album doesn’t seem to be as immediate as Marked for Death, as you mentioned - I think I was a little disappointed at first but it’s an excellent album, and honestly I would listen to anything with that voice of hers.



Light Song is an early favorite track

Digging: Holy Fawn - Death Spells

JS19
September 14th 2018


6801 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah this is her best, this rocks

Digging: Leech - For Better or For Worse

JS19
September 14th 2018


6801 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Light Song is song of the year

Evok
September 14th 2018


7317 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

hell yeah m////

Digging: Dysylumn - Occultation

Chamberbelain
Contributing Reviewer
September 14th 2018


102 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Cheers Dewi, you should still write one though. She needs all the attention she can get and yours might include something I completely looked over.

Looking forward to Marissa Nadler' s new album even more after this.

JS19
September 14th 2018


6801 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This is genuiely the sound I was desperate for in the last album

Evok
September 14th 2018


7317 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Same here. The vibe on this one is more... easy on the heart strings. That makes it much more palatable as a daily listen imo.

robotmagician
September 14th 2018


878 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

agreed which is why I was surprised in hearing this was supposed to be a darker album. maybe it is lyrically (i’m really bad at hearing actual words when listening to an album) but Marked for Death was pretty damn dark lyrically and musically

JS19
September 14th 2018


6801 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I find this hazy, washed out, gorgeous aesthetic super dark actually - even not hearing the lyrics which are quite dark in places

Taxt
September 14th 2018


1172 Comments


This record is great, but I think it's somewhat lacking in standout tracks like her last two. I dunno, I'll need a few more spins

oltnabrick
September 14th 2018


36030 Comments


Not as good as the last two albums :/

Digging: Hank and Slim - The World Turned Gingham

JS19
September 14th 2018


6801 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

better agreed

budgie
September 14th 2018


5439 Comments


you guys excited for the molly burch album next month or what?!?!



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