Night Shop Presents: Emma Ruth Rundle / Jaye Jayle
21 AND OVER
The cover to Emma Ruth Rundleâ€™s fourth solo record, On Dark Horses, bears a blurry photo of the songwriter obscuring her face with a large toy horse with broken legs. The photo suggests something candid but also hidden, graceful but also fracturedâ€”a fitting portrait for an artist who has established a career by vacillating between shrouding herself in mystery and exposing her wounds to the world. Her first solo release, Electric Guitar: One, was a collection of Frippian guitar instrumentals written and recorded in the backseat of a tour van during her tenure in Red Sparowes. Itâ€™s a record devoid of context, revealing nothing of Rundleâ€™s personal narrative. The first peek behind the curtain came with Some Heavy Ocean, where layers of distortion were excised in favor of acoustic guitar and Rundleâ€™s beguiling vocals. There was a distinct difference by the time Rundle released Marked For Death, a stark and deeply personal meditation on mortality and self-destructive behavior. Her entire musical trajectoryâ€”from the cinematic instrumentals of Red Sparowes to the lush haze of Marriages and onward through her solo careerâ€”seems like a gradual disclosure of intimate secrets. With On Dark Horses, Rundle doesnâ€™t shy away from uncomfortable realities or retreat into a private world, but it does capture an artist who has survived their personal nadir and come out stronger on the other side.
â€œIn the wake of weak beginnings, we can still stand high,â€ Rundle sings over banks of electrified minor chords and ghostly guitar leads on â€œDarkhorseâ€. Itâ€™s a statement of purpose and a recurring motif throughout the album. â€œThe record is about overcomingâ€”understanding and embracing the crippling situation and then growing beyond it,â€ Rundle says. â€œHorses keep working their way into the lyrics and visual dimension of this record. Theyâ€™re powerful and beautiful yet not free really. So the dark horse works for me in a visual way, as a representation of a contained force that will win the race or exceed the expectation of society and self.â€ The horse metaphor takes a darker turn on the reverb-soaked gothic Americana song â€œRacesâ€, where Rundle draws a parallel between alcoholism and being a â€œtouring vampire wastoidâ€¦ creeping around in the night dragged along by the need.â€
Taking the full arrangements of Marked For Death on the road demanded a backing band, which Rundle pieced together from tour companionsâ€”first Dylan Nadon from Wovenhand and Git Some and later Evan Patterson and Todd Cook from Jaye Jayle. Rundleâ€™s budding romance with Patterson prompted a move to Louisville, Kentucky, which not only amplified the equestrian themes of the record but also yielded a new writing process. â€œThis the first time I havenâ€™t played all the guitars on my own record,â€ Rundle says of Pattersonâ€™s contributions to the writing process. â€œIt was stressful letting go but it was also rewarding.â€ The collaboration worked both ways, with Rundle contributing to Jaye Jayleâ€™s No Trails and Other Unholy Paths. That albumâ€™s â€œMarry Usâ€ mirrors On Dark Horsesâ€™ â€œLight Songâ€, with the union of Rundleâ€™s siren vocals and Pattersonâ€™s poised baritone conjuring a dizzying and feverish update on the duets of Johnny Cash and June Carter.
On Dark Horses was written in the fleeting moments of downtime during Rundleâ€™s relentless touring schedule in the latter half of 2017 and into the early months of 2018. It was engineered and produced by Kevin Ratterman at LA LA LAND in Louisville, Kentucky over the course of ten days in February and March. Sargent House is proud to release On Dark Horses to the world on September 14, 2018 on CD/LP and all digital formats.