Review Summary: On his latest album of moody minimalism, David Moore switches out his piano for a Farsifa organ. For ambient music, it can sometimes feel overwhelming
You will probably know whether you like the entirety of Bing & Ruth’s new album Species
within its first few minutes. Composer David Moore continues the precedent set from his previous releases, which felt like he sat at his piano and knocked out the entire record in one take, the edges coloured in with subtly magnetic details from whoever else was around at the time. Albums like City Lake
and No Home of the Mind
swept you into a headspace similar to resting your eyes but fighting sleep; a pleasant if unsettled state where you aren’t sure if thirty seconds just went by, or ten minutes.
, he’s done something that amounts to a seismic change in his unwavering minimalist music: he’s traded the piano for a Farsifa organ. His compositions largely seem uninformed by the change in instrument, but the timbre of the organ gives them a newly impressionistic rendering. The bleary chords and arrhythmic loops, when paired with the reedy Farsifa, produce a voluminous sound that can feel overwhelming, stretching the definition of ambient music. When Moore falls back into dense freeform repetition, as on the crystalline “I Had No Dream” and the numbed-out “The Pressure of This Water”, the woozy layers of organ can feel kaleidoscopic, or in a less generous take, perhaps a bit nauseating.
The threadbare arrangements and production means the album lives and dies by the strength of Moore’s compositions, and in that regard Species
mostly delivers. The album starts strong with “Body in a Room” and “Bedwater Psalm”, two songs that feature hypnotically shimmering organs slathered over contemplative drones. The far too brief “Blood Harmony” and closing track “Nearer” are airy comedowns that provide a break from the busier pieces; chords swell in heavy emptiness, breaking through just enough to invoke a tinge of sadness. Moore drops the Farsifa in favor of a Combo organ for the glacial “Live Forever”, a teary-eyed epic that feels poignantly drawn out like a hard goodbye.
It can all occasionally become dizzyingly transcendent, but the wandering spirit of the music can leave the listener feeling detached. Formal structures seem just out of grasp, the transient melodies uninterested in revealing their beginnings and ends. Even more than the albums before it, Species
is a fairly atonal listen. It’s hard to definitively say whether that’s a result of the instrument itself, but it appears likely. The Farsifa simply seems like a less expressive instrument than piano (Moore himself has said he considers it limiting), and paired with Moore’s reserved compositions, it adds up to an album that’s easy to admire but harder to love.