Words by the ever erudite Adam Turner.
In 2019 Rich Ruth released Calming Signals*, an album from Nashville that sounds nothing like traditional “Nashville”. Rich’s background is in ambient music, and it seems that there’s something in the water in the Tennessee city right now. Fellow local, Luke Schneider, makes dream-like drones, using nothing but a pedal steel guitar, and Nashville Ambient Ensemble make cracking ambient / cosmic Americana. Rich’s music stands – or floats maybe – alongside these, as part of a new, weird, synth / guitar / FX Nashville. On Calming Signals Rich fused free-jazz, synthesized drones, and the sound of glass breaking. During the recording of the album he was carjacked at gunpoint outside his house, and when he returned to his home studio he poured the trauma of that experience into the music – used it as a way deal with his anxiety and to reset himself.
Rich has a new long-player out in August, care of Third Man, recorded in his guest bedroom. His loop pedals, guitars and synths, having now reached the sympathetic ears of John McEntire – of Tortoise – who mixed the record. The spiritual jazz influences are still there in full – piercing guitars and keyboard clusters combining to produce an experimental and improvisational music. The album, I Survived, It’s Over, is more than this though – it’s also a way for Rich to gain personal healing, a tool for meditation and finding peace.
The opening track, Taken Aback, kicks in and soars, the guitar leading the way, its bright, trebly lines taking flight. On Older But Not Less Confused Rich sets up rattling drums and a sax (or perhaps a guitar/ synth sounding very like a sax) surfs on top. Desensitising And Reprocessing starts out much calmer – ambient waves and groans with strings fluttering on top, before a drawn out atonal topline rises and falls. An enormous, distorted fuzz part then takes over, finally falling away to a drifting finish. Heavy And Earthbound is anything but, instead a wild and soaring free-jazz trip, with synths fizzing and everything set to stun. The three closing tracks – Thou Mayest, Angel Slide and Doxology (meaning, ‘a short hymn of praise to God’) – add up to twenty minutes of intensity. The former fades in with slide guitar and washes of synthesized noise, but halfway through explodes in a far-out, freak-out section. Angel Slide’s wall of sound builds slowly and incessantly to a life-affirming wailing, and then cuts to a soothing conclusion. The latter is a bedrock of resonance and sustain with a nagging, bouncing squiggle riding on top – the spirits of John Coltrane, Pharoah Saunders, and Ornette Coleman, summoned up for what is a cathartic, emotional, magical and at times almost overwhelming journey.
*Rob – It was Andrew Weatherall who hipped Adam to the righteous Rich Ruth, and Adam who subsequently turned me on.
Rich Ruth`s I Survived, It’s Over will be released on August 12th, care of Third Man Records.
You can find more fine prose from Adam Turner over at his own brilliant blog, The Bagging Area.