Hauntingly ambient with a touch of country twang comes Emma Ruth Rundle’s latest album On Dark Horses. Notably weighty with heavy-set guitars and a gutteral monotone voice of angst, Rundle leans on the darkness of human fragility, setting her sights on a steadfast voyage directly into the void. Distress plays a major role in this album, touching on Sisyphean themes while flirting with optimism in appropriately titled “Light Song”. While Rundle’s outlook remains bleak, there is a sense of community, however desperate and futile it may be. On Dark Horses is a collective of brutal honesty matched with distinctive, heady music that rumbles and crashes like thunder and lightning.
This album is agonizingly straightforward, cutting through to the core with the opening track “Fever Dreams”, which sets the tone of a neverending tension. The colliding symbols ring like shots in the night, while the brassy guitar pours over Rundle’s struggle. “Darkhorse” is stunning, shaking along like a pack of wild stallions that lead further into the country-like spin of “Races”. There’s a tranquility in the solidarity of this album. The echo and reverb that is present throughout is layered over thick guitar work that consistently catches the listener off-guard with its depth. On Dark Horses is depressing, yet the calm manner of Rundle’s husky voice delivers a dreary smile through the pain. The distant doom in songs such as “Apathy on the Indiana Border” are emotional, full of baggage that has yet to be unpacked, and will likely continue to gather ponderous dust.
On Dark Horses is aromatic: the smell of cigarettes rotting in an ashtray as a summer storm brews miles in the distance. What may be difficult to capture for some artists comes easily to Rundle, who is a seasoned veteran of tugging at darkened souls. Cohesive in every sense of the word, this album is strong, daring, and brutally honest, soaring past any other ambient work Rundle has put out in the past. There’s so much depth in On Dark Horses, elevating passion with swirling musical triumphs that sends a chill from beginning to end.