AMN Reviews: Kelly Ruth – Simulacra (2021; Bandcamp)

Kelly Ruth describes her music concisely – she “uses contact microphones and effects pedals on her weaving loom and other fibre related tools.” Indeed, without this explanation, it would be nearly impossible for the listener to ascertain the source material of her recordings on Simulacra. But perhaps that is the point she is making, as she uses these machines and tools (along with additional processing) to create soundscapes that simulate other organic and human-made processes and activities.

Case in point, Sensorial Waters opens the album with scraping and squeaking that resemble an oceanside with damped waves, seagulls, and whalesong. Two or three distinct lines of sculpted noise make up this heady amalgam. Like several of the tracks on this release, Ruth employs loops to create virtual rhythms that repeat for shorter or longer periods, though never wearing out their welcome.

Illusory Perceptions incorporates multi-tracked wordless vocals, deliberately-paced beats and mechanically-generated textures. One can imagine the threads being amplified as they are slowly pulled through the loom, but one could also envision this piece as a soundtrack to biological processes. On later tracks, the sounds can be more suggestive of machinery but retain a warmth and intentionality. While not exactly upbeat, Ruth eschews darkness for an intellectual experimentalism.

The 15-minute Momentary Collapse takes a left turn of sorts with mid-frequency drones and static added to the mix. The piece exhibits a breathiness, again spanning the gap between the living and inanimate. Vocalizations and elements resembling tuned percussion assist with the former.

As with her previous release, Forms, Ruth populates a corner of the avant-garde / noise / musique concrete space that is fairly unique. The closest comparison that comes to mind is the sound art of Tod Dockstader, but Ruth is more rhythmic and keeps her entropy high yet under control. Very, very well done.

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