Four years on from City Lake, the timbre of New York based ensemble Bing & Ruth has changed. The vocals, lap steel, percussion and vocals are gone, carrying with them most of the crescendos. Composer and pianist David Moore brings only six of his ten initial players on the new journey, which is a far more intimate affair. The new work asks listeners to strip away any expectation of what constitutes fullness; the reduction of the band is both metaphor and practice.
What’s left? Piano of course, along with two clarinets, two upright basses, a cello and a tape deck. The music is now full in another sense, spreading like a viscous fluid in a wide tray. Tomorrow Was the Golden Age is advertised as an experiment in gradation, and the description seems apt. These nine pieces are studies in texture and mood, seldom leading to any swell that might be interpreted as closure. If anything, they adopt the opposite tactic, winding down to expose the piano at the core. “TWTGA” waits for listeners to adjust to the keys in the background before introducing a second set of ivories in the foreground. By toying with depth perception, the track emphasizes the disorientation of its title. A similar title, “The Towns We Love is Our Town”, must be read numerous times before it makes sense, but once it makes sense, it cannot be read any other way.
The press release name-drops four influential artists, but comparison is a risky venture, especially when it comes to identity. The album is lovely, languid and minimalistic; it doesn’t need to stand in the shadow of giants. The difficulty for Bing & Ruth lies more in the fact that the new album is so different from the last, so filled with deliberate pacing and pausing, that few will recognize it as the work of the same composer. In short, Moore may develop an entirely different fan base. Time has lent the composer a new sense of subtlety, devoid of dissonance: his spell is cast note by flurried note.
Transcendence arrives in the moments of dynamic contrast. The solo piano and tape of “Strange Wind” give way to the darker enhancements of “The Towns We Love Is Our Town”, the album’s most active track. Ironically, the active darkness makes the track seem brighter than the passive brightness of other tracks, another trick of the ear. As the final notes of the final track splinter away, their echoes transfer from the ears to the mind; perhaps we’ll hear them again in the last golden age. (Richard Allen)