EMMA RUTH RUNDLE – ” Engine Of Hell ” Best Records Of 2021

Posted: November 6, 2021 in MUSIC
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In January of 2020, Emma Ruth Rundle checked herself into a cottage in rural Wales for a month. Searching for time alone with her guitar in order to sink into the isolation and write new music after a month-long European tour, the rugged hills and the fact that, unlike in America, there’s ​“5,000-year-old Neolithic burial chambers that are just there”, provided a perfect setting in which to work.

What she was also looking for was a break. Something of a gypsy by nature, the successes of her music – solo with 2018’s excellent On “Dark Horses“, her collaborations with artists like U.S. doom outfit Thou – had afforded her the opportunity to have a bohemian, rock’n’roll life, one in which there were few concerns besides music, touring and art. Money wasn’t bountiful, but that wasn’t so important when balanced out by doing what you love. Only, ​“It wasn’t working for me anymore.” She had begun to feel out of focus with her own life. Things weren’t quite lining up. Drink, drugs and a feeling of disconnection were beginning to outweigh the good. “I started to realise I’d lost touch with who I was and my feelings,” she says. ​“I spent a long time trying to run away and push it all down.”

In Wales, Emma began to write what would become her fifth album, “Engine Of Hell“, intentionally to be a ​“stark” record, performed in bare-bones fashion on guitar and piano, in which in simplicity and lack of fuss would allow for an emotional intimacy. As she wrote and tuned into the darkness, and the darkness began to gaze back, she kept following it. And things began to come up.

“The more you uncover, the more the corpses reveal themselves,” she says. ​“I was excavating myself, like soul retrieval, trying to find my history again.

Emma Ruth Rundle’s Engine of Hell is stark, intimate, and unflinching. For anyone that’s endured trauma and grief, there’s a beautiful solace in hearing Rundle articulate and humanize that particular type of pain not only with her words, but with her particular mysterious language of melody and timbre. The album captures a moment where a masterful songwriter strips away all flourishes and embellishments in order to make every note and word hit with maximum impact, leaving little to hide behind.

Nowhere is this sense of cleansing more clear than on the haunting “Blooms Of Oblivion“. Unlike her usual, relatively quick, creative process, it took a year to write. In it the language of the lyrics is unflinching – ​‘Down at the methadone clinic we waited / hoping to take home your cure / The curdling cowards, the crackle of china / you say that it’s making you pure’ – and although she wants to keep the box closed on some details, the story she’s telling is unambiguous.

“I wanted to say exactly what I said. It reveals enough, but it obscures just enough that I’m not calling anyone out, or necessarily including anyone else in my story in a way that could put them or their memory and into the public sphere in a disrespectful way,” she says. ​“But I’m telling my own story in an honest manner. It’s pretty explicit. It’s pretty intense thing to say, but it happened and it’s true. It’s part of life, and I think I think it’s okay to discuss ugliness. I mean, I knew I wanted to say the things I do.”

The sense of relief in the song comes in its almost uplifting ending. If you are to change, you must move on, and to move on, you must let people and things go. And to do that, you need to make a form of peace.

Engine Of Hell is a beautiful record. Stripped-down to bare elements that highlight the frailty at the soul of these songs, Emma describes this vision as ​“the most punk thing I could think to do”, to the point where recording was done in as few takes as possible, with no overdubs to correct mistakes, and even declining to have reverb on her vocals to preserve what was captured as purely as possible. In this vessel, with no distraction, the gently sung words take on an even deeper resonance.

From the upcoming album “Engine of Hell”, out 11/05 on Sargent House Records

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