A quiet, still and introspective journey
Prior to this album, no one would have ever called the music of Bing & Ruth noisy, and that certainly hasn’t changed with the release of Species. Though their previous releases were always fairly low-key, Species takes it to an entirely new level by abandoning the sound and speed of traditional piano, and trading it for cool, quiet synths and an unending patience.
While their previous record No Home of the Mind introduced numerous listeners to a brisk, playful and emotionally resonant version of modern classical, Species finds itself less easily fitting into the classical or neoclassical categories in which Bing & Ruth have typically trafficked. Instead, the record makes an immediate and bold statement with “Body in a Room” which opens up with a synth line so achingly close to Brian Eno’s “The Big Ship,” that any question as to this album’s primary influence should be immediately discarded. “Body in a Room” works well enough, but it sets the table for this record’s primary flaw: stagnancy. No Home of the Mind‘s greatest success was convincing people that neoclassical didn’t have to be stuffy or academic to evoke emotion. It feels like Species is attempting to tread down that same path, but in a different direction. Sadly, on their trek they manage to wander onto paths that were so well-trod that there is hardly any green grass left for them to gnaw upon.
These issues continue through just about every track on the record. Whether people are listening to the glossy cool whine of “The Pressure of Water,” the quiet hum of “Nearer” or the twinkling synths of “I Had No Dream,” all that ultimately presents itself is the same song over and over again. Many of the tracks follow such short loop patterns and such minimalist layering that they remain effectively unchanged unless one is paying agonizingly close attention.
The more positive takeaway is that though the tracks are simple, they are all effortlessly beautiful. There is nothing on this album that would force any listener to turn the record off. Though that may make it sound sterile, and to a certain point it is, it is more indicative of the pleasurable nature of each sound, for if any other genre were to attempt something this static it would immediately be outed as far too dull for human ears.
Bing & Ruth don’t exactly hit it out of the park with this release, but neither do they strike out. Those who already enjoyed Bing & Ruth’s previous work, or who are such big fans of Brian Eno that they’d take someone else’s similar enough sounding B-sides, should find plenty to delve into with this record. Sadly, others will need to wait for a more dynamic release that showcases the skill of Bing & Ruth’s playing and songwriting, rather than just an excellent ear for soothing sounds.