AMN Reviews: Christina Ruf – STR​Ø​M (2022; iapetus)

STR​Ø​M begins its journey with pastoral chamber ambience, almost a dreamlike state. From there it heads toward the edges of modern experimentation, while never losing its poise or listenability. The album is cellist and composer Christina Ruf’s first full-length effort. A solo recording with generous use of overdubs, on it Ruf employs electric and acoustic cellos, synths, bass, piano, mandolin, and voice. To these, she adds effects and processing.

Most tracks employ several instruments, such as one or more cellos, piano, and synth. Their sounds are layered upon one another in subtly shifting patterns of short and long-held notes. The use of drone terminology would not be out of place here, though Ruf’s offerings move too much and too often to fit squarely in that camp. Instead, her music is cinematic and melancholy, exhibiting both smooth and rough textures.

Case in point, Train combines the aforementioned instruments with notable swells from a lightly distorted electric cello and low-key electronic pops and crackles. In contrast, Intertwined is more of a vehicle for the acoustic cello, with an initially brighter theme that slowly darkens through use of lower registers and effects. Issues of Time, Space and Dreams is the most overtly experimental piece on the album. While less than two minutes in length, Ruf evokes harsh noises through processing and looping. Emmets is another short track, pushing the boundaries with electroacoustics atop a percussing pattern before ending in birdsong. Tal is largely focused on processed cello, and gently wafts along for eleven minutes with high-pitched accentuations as well as short echoing motifs. This return to pastoralism continues on Lie, with the addition of wordless vocals.

​STR​Ø​M is a powerful and meditative exploration of emotions – sadness and loss can be felt, along with hints of peace and joy. Let’s add Christina Ruf to the growing list of solo cellists (e.g., Jo Quail, Raphael Weinroth-Browne) who are extending the range of that instrument through both technical proficiency and compositional sophistication. Very well done.