AMN Reviews: Kelly Ruth – Forms (2019; Pseudo Laboratories)

Kelly Ruth affixes contact microphones to a weaving loom and other fiber-related tools, and then plays them as instruments. She runs the resulting tracks through effects and mixes them down to the results we hear on Forms, her debut. Some of the source material is arranged, some of it is from live improvisations. Her stated goal is “in how the sounds invoke imagined histories and futures” as well as exploring “the object’s connection to labour, economics, and environmental collapse.”

Sonically, Ruth is in her own category. Each of the eight pieces on the album features overlapping, though not interlocking, abstract structures. Though each of these on their own is repetitious, her combinations thereof are ever-shifting, and she rapidly retires one to introduce another. As an amalgam, they present a form of layered “minimalism” where the addition to new recordings to the mix has a generative impact on the piece as a whole.

These underlying compositional elements include pulsing rhythms, dense waves, and echoing abrasions. While Forms is not out of line with what might come out of the GRM style of electroacoustic recordings, there is a freshness to this release that belies its industrial-era source material. Moreover, her singular approach has a dark moodiness that makes it even more compelling.

This is a remarkable effort that provides much to unpack. Words fail, so take a listen. You will not be disappointed.