ALBUMS: The Inner Mounting Flame of Emily Jane White

The dark folk singer-songwriter colors in the spaces of a black and white world on Immanent Fire

Emily Jane White Immanent Fire, Talitries 2019

Artist: Emily Jane White

Album: Immanent Fire

Label: Talitries

★★★★ (4/5 stars)


There are times when listening to an artist can almost be like being a fly on the wall during a particularly arduous therapy session.

Sometimes, in fact, it’s akin to acting the role of a therapist. The artist pours out their pain, and we, the listeners, contemplate the turmoil that’s rooted in their drama and discomfort.

If indeed musicians choose to share their concerns as a kind of catharsis, our role then is to offer empathy. It’s a decidedly one way interaction, but it also reminds us of the specific part played in that dynamic by both artist and audience. The former conveys the the sentiment through song, often with a wellspring of angst and emotion. The latter is the receptor, content to nod its head with empathy and understanding. We may look at other whatever other factors might intrude on their intents, but probing any deeper could be considered be a more presumptuous proposition.

Still, Emily Jane White has always given us a lot to work with. With her avowed interest in what she describes as “the shadow side of life,” specifically a world where nuance and subtlety are given prime importance,” it’s easy to expect that there are certain demons lurking just below the surface. Her avowed literary idols — Edgar Allan Poe, Cormac McCarthy, Emily Bronte, and Edna St. Vincent Millay — attest to the fact she’s prone to music with a darker disposition.

Emily Jane White

“What was preoccupying my psyche were my immediate concerns about the destruction of the environment,” White commented when we asked about the thoughts that went into the making of Immanent Fire. “I am concerned about the severing of human experience from the natural and sacred world. Much of this alienation is caused by the hyper-use of technology and the pressures and conditions so many endure to survive in a world that than perpetuates this severing and destruction.”

Given the goth-like aura and solitary sound — a modern sort of folk noir, if you will — it takes only a minimal encounter with this, her sixth outing of the past twelve years, to understand why she opts for that more pessimistic approach. A tapestry of harrowing circumstances intrude on her designs — an apocalyptic combination of fire, frenzy and hateful intolerance that threatens all we hold dear. 

 

“And she a holy vessel breathes
And you sit and watch her bleed

And you, torched a hole in the sky
And you, watched your
earnings fly

And you, sit there as she lies
In blood, right before our eyes.”

 

Suffice it to say, it’s not a particularly giddy view. White conveys her thoughts through a haunting, mostly harrowing delivery, one that consists of minor chords and a sound flush with despair. The shifting ambiance and ethereal atmospherics further reflect her brooding state of mind. Indeed, songs such as “Infernal, “Shroud,” “Washed Away,” and “The Gates at the End” sound as ominous as the titles imply.

The tempos rumble with an underlying urgency, decidedly deliberate at times, but also, on occasion, driving and determined. White’s hushed vocals convey both venom and vulnerability, a clear indication of the menace and mayhem intermingling with doom and despair. 

It’s scary stuff to be sure, and yet it’s fully fascinating all at the same time. Thank White for confronting the merciless malaise while allowing the rest of us to reflect on it from afar.

 

AUDIO: Emily Jane White Immanent Fire (full album)

 

 

 

 

Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

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