Review Summary: Piano-driven ambient with an identifiable something.
Finding one's voice in ambient can't be easy. Here we have a genre without vocals, without lyrics, without hooks. Often, the instrumentation is sparse, like a room with only three walls and a chair from which to observe them. Even when the instruments are varied, it rarely sounds like you’re surrounded by a sixteen-piece orchestra. Instead, in the home of ambient, the walls are just slightly different shades of the same colour: ivory; cream; eggshell. In such an environment, and with so many bands already resident, it’s amazing to me that any artist could form a signature sound. But that’s exactly what Bing & Ruth have done.
This sound, dreamt up by minimalist composer David Moore, is centred around pianos. Pianos almost always, and almost always warbling. It is no coincidence that the opening track on Bing & Ruth’s second album Tomorrow Was the Golden Age
is entitled ‘Warble’, acting as their flag in the sand. Such warbling keys have made their way across two full-lengths since the band’s debut City Lake
, and in No Home of the Mind
that march has begun to form footprints. An identifiable something.
‘Starwood Choker’, which opens the album, is wholly representative of this footprint. Those warbling pianos enter immediately and without apology, dancing around one another in the centre of the stage. Various breeds of wind and echo shift in and out of the background, textured skins tried on and slipped off, never impeding the dancers. ‘As Much as Possible’ brings the warbling to a halt, but the print remains. A particular chord is played over and over, fingers clasped over the same keys, accompanied by a small, repeated melody further up the board and similar ethereal groans. Even the emotional tug this generates carries its own distinctive mark.
In general, the tracks here settle into a state of unhurried unfurling, like slowly unwinding spirals, and this helps to give the record - or at least the listener - a feeling of being outside of time. Consequently, it’s the sort of album to play through noise-cancelling headphones at the arrivals terminal of an airport. You see the child cry, the family reunite, the businessman shake the hand of his driver, and the track ’The How of it Sped’, with its one untiring piano sequence eased forward by a gentle undercurrent of whirr and drone, encourages you to paint a story, a life - past, present and future - over each one of these interactions.
Most of the rest of the album treads the same steps - hypnotic piano passages enveloped in a thin membrane of ghostly sighs - and in doing so a path is created. A well-lit, unwavering path which will take you to a lovely nowhere. The route might be a little monotonous, but it is without a doubt a Bing & Ruth path, one with a clear form but no clear outline, and that alone is something to get excited about.