Brooklyn-based Bing & Ruth, according to their label 4AD’s official website, aim to write “minimalist ensemble music with a certain filmic sensitivity, one that prioritised grace and texture over the style’s once-radical subtraction“. Certainly in their latest release, No Home Of The Mind, this is achieved; it’s a cinematic, moody soundscape that nags both ears and heart.
This experimental/ambient indie outfit is led by pianist David Moore, alumni of NYC’s The New School for Jazz. Their previous releases, City Lake (2010) and Tomorrow Was The Golden Age (2014) reflect Moore’s musical academia and are far more classically-directed.
Now signed to alternative label, 4AD (home to an eclectic bunch of genre spanning artists, including Pixies, Bon Iver and St Vincent), Bing & Ruth release No Home Of The Mind, which sits perfectly on the cusp between contemporary classical and cinematic minimalism.
To achieve the immediacy of classical performance, the album was recorded in but a couple days, in the fewest possible takes as to emulate conservatory style practice whereby the first take is often the last. Written on seventeen pianos across North America and Europe, the record merges live instruments with carefully selected production techniques harmoniously.
Being recorded in a church grants it a certain natural ambience that is emphasised digitally with layering of effects (much reverb, much drone, much arpeggiator, much beautiful sound architecture). The result is something that sits on the brink of the styles it bridges whilst forming its own sound simultaneously.
Due to the soundtrack/soundscape setup, it feels almost inappropriate to parse these pieces apart from one another – listening to the album is an experience that runs from start to finish with little marking the borders between songs. However, this isn’t to say this record is monotonous (though it must be said that times it does get a little samey-samey, as is expected I suppose from minimalism).
There are a few musical elements that feature as themes throughout, like the subdued, nagging drones and layered piano arpeggios on “As Much As Possible”. The piano strikes me as having an almost lyrical quality, bearing a theme that seems to be for a character. Discords strike a few times and break the serene stupor but largely you’re sent to the darkly beautiful place the music evokes.
“Scrapes” also features the layered arpeggiated ideas that characterise this record, coloured with siren-esque drone sounds that glissando beautifully into the climax; its cinematic melodrama is resolved at the end in a way that makes me see end credits for a film rolling before my eyes.
Though there is a sense of ambient positivity within this record, stark and dismal moments occur throughout the record as it shifts from light to darkness – brooding “Chonchos” is bare and dark, as is “Is Drop”, which swells and develops gently before being swallowed by its dark resolve.
In “Form Takes”, the piano shimmering over the dark drones in the bass stay largely static but evokes a feeling of limbo, of waiting, within the never-resolved dissonance in its harmonic structure.
Overall, listening to this album gave me the sense of being immersed in an evocative, emotive film theme which easily ran the risk of becoming repetitive; yet, the sheer resourcefulness of the minimalist aspects of this record give it poignancy that prevents it from being monotonous.
The embracing of both disciplines is executed well; minimalism is approached here with the inclusion of a very subtle (but very much there) ghost of a structure that shapes it into something between soundscape and honed classical composition. Bing & Ruth’s No Home Of The Mind can be bought on iTunes here.
Words by Hannah Bruce