Engine of Hell by Emma Ruth Rundle

Release date: November 5, 2021
Label: Sargent House

LA experimental folk artist Emma Ruth Rundle is an enigma, but her new record leaves her nothing to hide behind. Whereas previous efforts were more atmospheric, the instrumentation here is stark and unadorned with nothing but piano and acoustic guitar (and occasional violin).

I am reminded in parts of Kate Bush and Tori Amos; no doubt influencing her at some point in her life. The record was performed live with virtually no overdubs and it has an an intimacy that will please fans. I am not going to ruminate on her sometimes devastating lyrics, and will leave interpretation up to listeners. Suffice it to say that it’s not an easy path to follow to the end.

This is a harrowing journey for sure, and yet, the sheer beauty of her poetic songs will entrance even as its morose subject matter drags you down.

‘Blooms of Oblivion’ veers slightly into Radiohead territory, and ‘Body’ reminds me the most of Tori. Yet I think Rundle has far more depth to her compositions, despite the tonal similarity.

‘Dancing Man’ is cathartic and tense, never letting the light motes dance despite its pristine beauty. ‘Razor’s Ege’ reminds of Nick Drake and sounds almost happy, and is the most upbeat song in this collection.

‘Citadel’ is decidedly intense, but has an engaging melody. ‘In My Afterlife’ is equally bleak, and a fitting end to this release. Be aware that this is not music for the faint-hearted.

And yet, we’ve all come through tough times over the past 20 months, and this record may well be the perfect soundtrack for the pandemic. Brilliantly performed and written and highly recommended.

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