# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Emma Ruth Rundle - Marked for Death

  by Adrian Janes

published: 26 / 11 / 2016

Emma Ruth Rundle - Marked for Death
Label: Sargent House
Format: CD


Second solo album from Marriages and Red Sparrowes singer-songwriter Emma Jane Rundle is an austere but largely rewarding listen

The seeming echo between ‘Marked for Death’ and Lana Del Rey’s ‘Born to Die’ in fact only heightens the contrast in how they delve into similarly painful emotional terrain. Whereas Del Rey is lushly orchestrated and rhythmically crisp, conjuring up suburban lawns and urban edginess, Rundle - who recorded this album at the Californian desert-based studio, The Farm - goes for starkness and space, rarely employing more than voice, drums and guitars which, often in the same song, shift from intimate acoustic to layers of electric that whip like a wind around an exposed mesa. This musical exposure is accentuated by lyrics of intense vulnerability, need and disappointment, a combination that might be called Plath rock. They inform the accusation of the title song, challenging a lover “Who else would ever stay?”; the “Nobody knows me like you” of ‘Medusa’; and the tormented paradox in ‘Protection’: “I am worthless in your arms/But you offer this protection”. Taken on their own, such words might invite glib talk of low self-esteem or self-pity, but isn’t art the place to examine and express feelings that aren’t necessarily ‘healthy’? And in doing so, Rundle gives voice and, perhaps, solace to others. In any case, the songs’ characteristic shift from restrained verses to choruses and passages full of battered drums and hurricane guitars, with Rundle’s voice their clear-eyed centre, embody a continual struggle to pull back from a final descent into despondency. ‘Hand of God’ is one of several songs to feature religious language. But in its stripped-down intensity the whole album is dark night of the soul territory, albeit ‘Heaven’, having begun with just a slightly reverberating acoustic guitar as if from a hermit’s cave, by the close is a storm of guitars and a Patti Smith-like ecstacy. The two concluding songs noticeably slow the pace, even for an album that relies on heartfelt playing rather than speed for its energy. ’Furious Angel’ is instrumentally austere (reverbed guitar, funereal drumbeat and touches of keening violin), but has one of the record’s loveliest vocal melodies. ‘Real Big Sky’ seems to be a lament for, and dialogue with, a dying parent (“I don’t want to be awake/When it takes me”), the unadorned emotion of Rundle’s voice emphasised by her raggedly distorted guitar (the track is in fact the original demo). ‘Marked for Death’ is a challenging, uncomfortable album, from the title and shadowed black and white cover on. In her dressed-down musical style there is something of P. J. Harvey about Rundle, but crossed with the country tinge to her singing. While there are certainly subtleties to her approach (the sibilant voice on ‘Medusa’, for instance, or the title track’s cello strokes), the quiet verse/loud chorus construction does become a bit predictable. Exciting as that contrast often is, on something like ‘Protection’ the amount of repetitive back and forth ultimately makes it lose something of its power. So not a faultless album, but in its powerful confessions of need and rage against her own and others’ faults, maybe that is exactly how it should be.

Track Listing:-
1 Marked for Death
2 Protection
3 Medusa
4 Hand of God
5 Heaven
6 So, Come
7 Furious Angel
8 Real Big Sky

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Some Heavy Ocean (2014)
Atmospheric and dark 90’s-influenced album from Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter and Red Sparowes guitarist, Emma Ruth Rundle

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