Emma Ruth Rundle is a singer-songwriter, guitarist and visual artist, born and raised and still based in Los Angeles. Thus far she’s released two solo albums (her debut Some Heavy Ocean came out in 2014), and if the press release is to be trusted, she’s currently also a member of three bands – Red Sparowes, Marriages, and Nocturnes – and seems to have a connection with LA experimentalists The Headless Prince of Zolpidem.
Emma’s rationale for following the path to singer-songwriterdom is a familiar one, since her metier creates an auditory experience verging on total catharsis for artist and audience alike. However, her personal situation is a rarer phenomenon. She suffers from the intensely painful condition adenomyosis (look it up), and experience of this has, we’re given to understand, largely inspired the anguished lyrics and the painful-sounding, discordant instrumental textures of album number two, Marked For Death. Emotionally Emma has nowhere to hide, so her voice strides out bravely from behind a wall of crashing, cascading electric guitars and battering drumming. This bravery exemplifies the duality of feeling extremely vulnerable and feeling terrified about revealing herself, and the resultant music not only voices her own personal mental and physical discomforts but also her utter helplessness in the shadow of defeat – making the disc’s title even more apt – and the paradox of her tough resilience.
The album is also self-evidently not going to be a comfortable listening experience, especially at first (the opaque textures can take a while to embed themselves and spread back out into your sensibilities), and it’s not until just after halfway through the album, on Heaven, that the volume relents and the more hypnotic nature of her voice is allowed freer expressive rein in its refusal to be submerged by the dirty layered guitars. The ensuing track So, Come returns us to Emma’s defiant Banshee persona. After the first few tracks, indeed, final song Real Big Sky comes as a surprise, with its stripped-down fuzz, transparent if not exactly lucid, but a powerful counterpoint to Emma’s coming to terms with defeat.
The doomy, overpowering washes of sound impart Emma’s songs with a brooding, towering majesty, but it can also feel oppressive and overbearing if you don’t manage to get settled and immerse yourself in her creations. To be fair, it’s probably not a record you’ll want to listen to all that often, but it does cast a spell.
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