When it comes to describing Bing and Ruth’s new album, “No Home of the Mind,” one must first abandon the usual vernacular that comes with pop music. Terms like melody, solo, and riff become meaningless, swallowed by the gargantuan power of feeling and atmosphere that the band wields. Like a wave that encapsulates in water and sound, so does the five member chamber-ambient group Bing and Ruth saturate their songs until the listener is enshrouded all its elements, surrounded by a thick haze and fog that has been woven from music’s very ether.
Throughout almost all of “No Home of the Mind”, the texture is alive and completely enveloping, revolving in broad strokes of bass, clarinet, and tape delay as piano lines ebb and flow around the wall of sound, sometimes crystallizing in repeating lines and aching swaths of chords, other times dissolving into the soundscape until nothing recognizable remains. Yet, occasionally the fog clears, and a tender moment of beauty is revealed as piano notes tremble in soft tones, the sun breaking through the clouds over a mountain vista; only for a moment before the fog of night returns.
Opener “Starwood Choker” sets the tone for the album with movements of cascading piano reminiscent of Lubomyr Melnyk, drawing us slowly into the atmosphere of Bing and Ruth’s painted landscapes. As each piece pulls the listener deeper into the music, one has the notion of inhabiting a tapestry the group has woven, a translucent design that changes shape and form depending on what elements of light and color move through it.
When the yawning sounds open up into “Scrapes,” a melody appears out of the void, aching emotional tones and key shifts shifting one’s mind into ideas of otherworldly beauty. High tones rise out of the song’s end, moving into somber and dark “Chonchos,” where deep, guttural tones almost drown out the piano. This is where Bing and Ruth challenges its listeners, abandoning beauty at its most tender and surrendering to the sublime nature of darkness and light existing together. On this album they seem to be descending into the very mud of the earth.
Nowhere is Bing and Ruth’s vision for the world more evident than in the video for “The How of it Sped,” a meditative track that centers on a repeating piano line, the constant among a swath of texture behind it, moving and shifting in natural flows of time. The transformation is so subtle that the listener hardly notices the song’s color and texture changes dramatically by the end of its nearly 6 minutes. In the video, the effect is heightened as impressionistic visuals drift across the screen, centering on nothing but experiencing everything. The currents of billowing fog, swaths of light, and fuzzy figures bring us into the state of mind that Bing and Ruth seems to cultivate: where light, texture, and color overwhelm the typical meanings and story lines we impose onto people and places, leaving us with a sense of wonder and enormity for the world.
More than anything, “No Home of the Mind” is a sign of great things to come. Bing and Ruth is a group that has proven to be adventurous and thoughtful with their sound, and as their albums only get better with time, a few years of listening should prove to be fruitful for this recording as well, and only add to its power. After all, music may have the ability to change the very workings of the mind.