Emma Ruth Rundle chills and intrigues with the beautiful "Arms I Know So Well."
Emma Ruth Rundle is a Los Angeles-based accomplished guitarist, singer/songwriter and member of Red Sparowes and Marriages. Her first official solo album, Some Heavy Ocean, presents a collection of impassioned, cathartic songs, exorcising the ghosts of one of life's dark detours. Melancholic, but equally hopeful and accessible, the album wears its emotions on its sleeve. One critic described Rundle's voice as "bone-chilling texture filled to the brim with intent", and a better description is difficult to imagine; when paired with her compelling guitar playing, an enduring spirit takes root.
In 2007, Rundle assembled the self-described folkgaze collective, The Nocturnes, for the purpose of performing her work. The following year, she was drafted into the monolithic post-rock supergroup, Red Sparowes. Touring the world playing the Sparowes' epic brand of instrumental heaviosity sparked a fruitful musical connection with fellow Sparowes guitarist, Greg Burns. When that band commenced a well-deserved hiatus in 2011, she and Burns (on the invitation of Russian Circles) instigated a new group, Marriages, who supported Circles in California and then promptly began recording a debut mini-album, Kitsune (subsequently released by Sargent House in 2012). Meanwhile, Rundle and friends as The Nocturnes reconvened briefly in 2011, issuing a full-length album, Aokigahara, while solo she recorded an album of experimental guitar compositions, tentatively made available online.
What followed was a "dark, difficult time", marked by family problems and personal struggles which, though exhausting emotionally, also incubated Rundle's conviction to use their inherent misery as fuel for expression.And so, in 2013, she literally moved into Sargent House's home studio in Echo Park, sequestering herself for two months while writing and recording what would become Some Heavy Ocean. Itself a taxing experience, the process of creating the album was fraught with problems and setbacks that, naturally, served to fortify its unmistakable air of sadness and desperation. Which isn't to say Some Heavy Ocean isn't equally optimistic or compelling. An apt title if ever one existed, the album swells and crashes, waxes and wanes, ebbing and, yes, flowing - the way all great albums do. The songs twist and sway like kelp forests drunk on its amniotic tide.
The album opens with the brief title track, "Some Heavy Ocean", a nebulous back-looped swirl of elements, like a painter steadily mixing their palette into a swelling cacophany of hues. "Shadows of My Name" arrives promptly, an acoustic hymn propelled by Rundle's breathy, quaking voice, recalling classic artists like Bjork and?Sinead O' Connor at their most vulnerable. Emerging from shadow, the track spills open into a symphonic, reverb-tinted soundscape which, once fully envisioned, quickly vanishes. In its place steps "Your Card the Sun", an enigmatic whisper of a song, the brevity of which renders it de facto introduction to the album's next track, us-against-the-world manifesto "Run Forever". Anchored by an infectiously-memorable chorus, the "Run Forever's" timeless, expansive essence suggests Mazzy Star and late-era Swans, which may or may not be accidental. Utilizing Greg Burns' pedal steel, "Haunted Houses" follows a similar path, Rundle imploring the subject of her convictions, "Don't say it's not what you wanted", her sense of disappointment palpable. Side one closes with "Arms I Know So Well", an emotionally-charged appeal for someone to "deliver me from all the evil I do to myself" which, like so much of the album, simply bows out once its point has been made. Nothing on Some Heavy Ocean overstays its welcome. Decidedly more brooding and less percussive, side two opens with "Oh Sarah" followed by "Savage Saint", two subdued tracks punctuated by the string arrangements and additional vocals of Andrea Calderon (who appears elsewhere on the album, always with evocative effect). "We Are All Ghosts" rattles its cage, a thumping, rhythmic treatise on the human condition, before the bleak soundscape of "Living With the Black Dog" signals the album's imminent demise.