Emily Jane White’s name is in almost complete opposition to her art. As a musician hailing from California her first outings as a musician began, perhaps surprisingly, in punk and metal bands during college, after which she stayed in France before returning to the US to settle in San Francisco. With her third album Ode to Sentience’s release on Milan Records she has found herself an underground name in the world of what has been coined “dark folk”.
It’s an album of darkness and mystery yes; and she too confirms this having once stated “I don’t write happy music. I’m drawn to writing sad songs. Reflective, contemplative songs. I truly believe that that’s my job.” The recording too harbours a certain fascination with death; on opening track ‘Oh Katherine’ she sings “I do not feel alive” and speaks of “the dark [which] has sucked me in again”. It’s a darkness bourne of mysticism however, a fantastical darkness that bridges gaps between reality and fiction – myth and fairytale almost. ‘The Cliff’s’s otherwise unfathomable lyrics are figurative plays with language in which we can envisage and hear an entire dialogue between the two lovers as one plummets to their death while the other floats angelic, an omniscient eye and narrator to the scene.
Vocally her dulcet tones have been likened to Mazzy Star and Cat Power, a voice that is at once both rich and wispy, a subtle whisper sucking you in much like the darkness she utters of being intoxicated by. And her exclamations too are matter of fact, happy in their sadness, through this helping us find a certain joy in the gothic veiled themes her songs are dressed in. ‘I Lay to Rest (California)’ is perhaps the most experimental track musically, dark and jangling, eerie and macabre in minor chord progressions, while others like ‘The Cliff’ skip along with Americana ease in the slide guitar openings. In other places she richly dresses quieter tracks with heady cello arrangements which circle around the cooing vocals and atmospheric percussion of ‘Black Silk’ and ‘Requiem Waltz’, marking them both melodic and melancholic.
This feels more than a folk album, the cloudy layers of sound which build upon the initial tapestry of intricately finger plucked guitar which shape her songs in their purest, most simple form, changing shape over their course. Nothing is quite as she presents it; a contented sadness and a matter of factness to her singing coupled with theatrical blues and blacks of sound that seem to conjure images of the changing colour of the night sky and the play of light on the moon.
MP3: The Law
Buy Album from Amazon: Ode to Sentience