REVIEW: MAY OUR CHAMBERS BE FULL - EMMA RUTH RUNDLE & THOU
WELL, THIS SHOULD BE INTERESTING.
This is the first debut collaboration between Louisiana serial experimentalists Thou and Kentucky singer-songwriter Emma Ruth Rundle. The pairing is arguably not as unlikely as it first might seem given Thou's long track record of joint ventures with various co-artists and split releases. Often lazily and over-simplistically cited as sludge, Thou's truly prolific and challenging output has encompassed everything from drone, ambient, shoegaze doom, black metal, and grunge. Rundle, too, is not unfamiliar with left-field experimentation with a CV boasting - aside from her solo work - Red Sparrowes, Marriages and her own visual artwork.
There are strong elements of low-fi grunge such as opener Killing Floor which is like a slow, warped, concussed Alice In Chains at their most sludgy and introspective. Downtuned, fuzzed guitars meditate below Rundle's troubled bluesy croon with and the backing vocals of Bryan Funck's hellish choked rasp. The ponderous fuzz is unconventionally melodic with some dapples of light permeating through the mirk. Likewise, Monolith similarly uses a DIY grunge ethic that could almost be a radio hit on a serious comedown.
There is both a fight and a dance between the collaborators, with neither divergent presence truly overshadowing the other. Rundle is at time like a gothic blues incarnation of Cranberries' Dolores O'Riordan and her more reflective tones alternate or harmonise with Funck's deranged hiss. The tactic of alternating vocals is employed on the likes of Out of Existence and Ancestral Recall which swing from plaintive, wistful crooning to pulsing revved muddy guitars and wrathful harsh vocals. Similarly, this tactic is used most powerfully on Magickal Cost which starts with almost summery alternative light rock that precedes walls of devastating volume and heavy intensity that is Thou's staple. This climaxes to one of the most memorable hooklines of the album and is the apogee of how the two artists combine their craft.
The Valley closes the album and, as its bucolic title suggests, it is a meandering meditative soundscape. Backed by tremulous, shamanic drumming and with Rundle the sole vocalist throughout (it could be from one of her solo records), it takes most of the song's nine minutes to ebb towards the height of its mournful climb, yet never quite summits. Falling short of a big climactic ending that the building drama promised, it is a personalised rumination in search of self and redemption but the seeker remains lost rather than find resolution.
May Our Chambers Be Full is comparatively more accessible than the sheer relentless punishment of much of Thou's apocalyptic heaviness and psychological oppression but, predictably, this is far from easy listening. It is emotionally troubled with a sense of unease and, despite the 36 minute run-time, it feels longer. With lyrical focus on existential morosity and spiritual disaster, you know the vibe both artists are likely to create though there are some passages of fleeting contrast. Both artists sound much like they normally would and do not create a new style, but their distinctive and divergent styles played in tandem sound apposite in the fuzzed out murk. Intense, different, at times meandering this is a unique project attempted by two artists always unafraid to push boundaries.