Your pain is real, a lifetime filled with injuries / I tried to heal, but you revel in your misery
“We’ve come undone,” asserts Ella on the Run in the chorus of her new EP’s title track. Through a sparse haze of keyboards, guitar and echoey electronic drums, the artist born Stephanie Gautier weaves her minimalist tale of love on its last legs. “Close the door, open up another frame. What was war is now just a dying flame.”
Something magical happens when music, poetry, and meaning synchronize. If only for a brief moment, the world enters a dreamlike stasis. The unity of these three parallels in the music world is truly rare, and relatively subjective. When it does occur, it’s the closest thing to nirvana that a listener may experience. Ella on the Run achieves this balanced trifecta on Undone EP by masterfully combining sensation with experience, effectively capturing the aftermath of a drowned relationship on an individual.
Listen: “Undone” – Ella on the Run
I held your life in balance, but I tipped the scale – heavy is the burden
Ella on the Run was last on Atwood Magazine for her outstanding song “Rodeo Clowns” (at which point in time I remarked, “There’s something to be said for the haunting mystique of minimalist indie pop music. The beauty of the human voice lies in its ability to singlehandedly evoke multidimensional emotions, and the brilliance of minimalist pop lies in the artist’s ability to enhance that raw vocal power with subtle instrumental touches.“). Gautier’s first EP, War of Words (in which “Rodeo Clowns” resides), is a successful introduction to an alt-pop songstress with heartbreak on the mind.
Undone, in turn, is the 16-minute score of a minimalist queen-in-the-making. The logical next step in terms of both Ella on the Run’s music and lyrics, Undone presents as a total package what most artists will offer in parts: Complete cohesion and musical awareness. Ella on the Run’s acute sense of space and movement results in the artist’s persona manifesting with considerable force on even the most unassuming of tracks. Her clear voice shines in the spotlight of “Undone,” evoking her brokenness and the misery of her situation. The more upbeat “Walk Away” finds the artist nearly whispering into the microphone about her struggle with an improper relationship, and the Paul Simon/Peter Gabriel-esque keyboard melody betrays her mixed feelings: Indecision runs through her as the voice in her head tells her to “walk away.”
Raw emotion comes from total submission to, and harnessing of our feelings, and Ella on the Run holds nothing back. Her production is distinctly modern, electronic, and in-the-moment: Her voice balances the music, and unlike other modern pop stylings, neither voice nor instrumentation overwhelms the other at any time: Instead, they feed off each other, working in harmony toward a shared expressive goal. As the tracks glow with their individual embedded moods, the Undone EP radiates with the weight of the full storyline: The EP’s continuity results in an elevated sense of internal conflict, nostalgia, self-awareness and self-understanding.
After all, this is Ella on the Run’s struggle, but behind the mask lies the artist Steph Gautier, immersed in her life experiences and trying her best to tell her story within a story. Emotions are never simple – only in the most extreme of times does one feel complete sadness or complete joy. It is therefore overwhelmingly impressive, but also fitting (and seemingly natural) that Gautier has been able to capture the dual nature of her personal experience in both individual songs and over a full, cohesive EP.
Though the episode is perhaps over – the door finally (though never fully) shut – Undone EP leaves the listener wanting more. Three original songs and one wholly transformed Ace of Base cover are enough in the short term; the EP is certainly a vibrant re-introduction to Ella on the Run’s unique synthesis of time and aural space, but no matter which way you slice it, it is still a sixteen-minute clip. The EP accomplishes its goal of encompassing an experience and an idea; Gautier’s next goal may perhaps be to weave multiple ideas and experiences together into a more distinguished and diverse full album. Granted, there is no reason to compose a full record if it will not be truly reflective of the artist; an album is a much more ambitious undertaking, and for an independent artist such as Gautier, this EP suffices to exhibit Ella on the Run’s impressive skill set and musical aptitude. One day will come the time for her full record, and we cannot wait for that mone time to come.
Just a look, just a touch; it’s enough but not enough
For now, we have the exceptional Undone EP. Ella on the Run proves her ability to exploit the power of the total sonic spectrum, crafting a web that crosses light with darkness, beginnings with ends, love and lust with pain, nostalgia, hurt, and remorse. Give a listen to Ella on the Run and look out for Atwood Magazine’s exclusive interview with Stephanie Gautier later this week!