Ruhe has been one of our favorite artists for a while, and Patriarchs proves that he can still surprise. More piano-based than recent works (especially Chamber Loops, released earlier this year on Dauw), the new album seems like the work of an artist who has been stunned and is working his way to recovery. Restrained at first, the album takes tentative steps to reengagement, until at the end the balance seems restored. The fact that the album was recorded beneath the smoke of summer wildfires in Oregon and Washington lends credence to this theory, and Mathias Van Eecloo’s video (seen below) provides a visual component to the music as white clouds fade to black.
“This album is for all who yearn for rest,” writes Ruhe, and the spacious piano notes are indeed quite restful, offering an antidote to the anxiety of looming disaster. Bad times may be coming and death may be in the air, but we still have right now. The first distorted drones arrive midway through the opening track, like smoke: present, but not overwhelming. And yet they pass. In the end, the piano reemerges, as if to say, I was just biding my time.
Ruhe sings a bit on the subsequent track, introducing the theme: “The ones who were here before, pillars standing the test of time, weathering the storms”. Those familiar with “Distance” (from My Heart Goes Out to You) know that the artist does this from time to time: a rowboat of lyric in a lake of instrumentation. The choral, lyric-free benediction of “Felled” is more effective, knitting a blanket of comfort around the listener. In the closing tracks, the more familiar Ruhe sound finally emerges: rain on “Shelter” (another nod to “Distance”), causing the wildfires to steam; loops on “Restoration”, and a miked cassette player on “Beams”. The crickets emerge in this closing piece, signifying the end of the fire and smoke; from this fractured forest, new life will spring. (Richard Allen)