It took until about the halfway point in Bing and Ruth’s album release show last night at the Greene Space before the brunette in the front row finally rested her head on the shoulder of the adjacent sweaterboy. New Yorkers have been cocooning a lot lately: it’s hard to think of a more apt, or possibly more hopeful soundtrack for quiet reflection than the ensemble’s new record No Home of the Mind – available on vinyl and streaming at WNYC – which they played from start to finish.
Pianist David Moore has scaled down the original scope of the band from almost a dozen members to the current five, in the process further concretizing his signature blend of minimalism, indie classical and electroacoustic trance music. As the group’s instrumentals segued from one into another, they brought to mind acts as diverse as Anton Bagatov, Dawn of Midi without the thump, George Winston without the sentimentality, or even Bruce Hornsby if he’d gone into minimalism after his time with the Grateful Dead.
What was most impressive was how little the group relies on electronics. Other acts would take Moore’s looping phrases and have a pedal do all the heavy lifting. Not Moore: it’s one thing to play his gnomic clusters, and elegant arpeggios, and Philip Glass-ine phrases once with perfect timing; Moore did it over and over, with unwavering intonation and touch and rhythm and made it seem easy. Much of the time, he had his eyes closed. Clarinetist Jeremy Viner, who supplied subtly shifting shades enhanced by a pedalboard, might have opened his once during about 45 minutes onstage. The two bassists – Greg Chudzik and Jeff Ratner – took different roles, one anchoring the music with a series of low drones, the other playing higher up the fingerboard and adding the occasional, understatedly emphatic slow glissando. Mike Effenberger sat stage left, running the sound through a series of mixers, sometimes for minute timbral shirts or oscillations, occasionally for dramatic low-versus-high effect. Moore began with his most energetic phrasing, segued down toward enigmatic ambience, took a turn into minor keys for the night’s most acerbic moments and ended on a warmly nocturnal note.
Considering that Bing and Ruth usually play much larger spaces, it was something of a shock to see that the intimate Greene Space – a former deli about the same size as Hifi Bar – wasn’t sold out. Then again, everyone’s cocooning these days. Bing and Ruth’s next New York show is on April 10 at the San Damiano Mission, 85 N 15th St in Williamsburg, time/price TBA.
Just for the record, there is nobody with either the name Bing or Ruth in Bing and Ruth. There’ve been thousands of illustrious Ruths over the centuries; beyond a crooner of cheesy 1930s pop hits, a baseball executive, and the world’s most useless search engine, there haven’t been too many Bings. Here’s to this group for redeeming the name.
We do this every Tuesday. You’ll see this week’s #1 song on our Best 100 songs of 2009 list at the end of December, along with maybe some of the rest of these too. This is strictly for fun – it’s Lucid Culture’s tribute to Kasey Kasem and a way to spread the word about some of the great music out there that’s too edgy for the corporate media and their imitators in the blogosphere. Pretty much every link here will take you to each individual song.
1. Alice Texas – Oh, My Beautiful
New song from the reliably excellent NYC noir songwriter/chanteuse – you’ll have to see her live to hear this. Watch this space
2. Lorraine Leckie – Four Cold Angels
Ominous, surfy ghoulabilly with a strange early 80s new wave edge.
3. Panonian Wave – Pitanje
Janglerock meets gypsy punk. They’re at Radegast Hall in Williamsburg on 6/24 at 9.
4. Bing and Ruth – Chaperone to a Civil War
Offhandedly stark, hypnotic, echoey minimalist instrumental.
5. D.B.C.R. – Let Them Eat Bikes
The band name stands for Drunken Belligerent Confrontational Rock. They hate trendoids, gentrification and they have Jason Victor from Steve Wynn’s band on guitar. They’re at Hank’s at 9 on 6/25.
6. Chris Cacavas – It’s All Over
Ominously swaying Americana rock with a southwestern gothic tinge from the ex-Green on Red keyboardist.
7. Maya Caballero – All Roads Lead to Here
Ethereal, hypnotic acoustic southwestern gothic.
8. Garden Gnome – Service with a Smile
Synth loop-driven prog rock, totally King Crimson except with keys.
9. Girl to Gorilla – Madeira
Fiery tuneful somewhat Social Distortion style rock. They’re at the National Underground on 6/27 at 11.
10. Biggie Smalls – St. Ides commercial
St. Ides is one of the most disgusting beers ever made. But it will get you very drunk. Thirty seconds’ worth of what made Biggie’s tummy so big.