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Rich Ruth – a.k.a. veteran Nashville-based musician Michael Ruth – took a break from touring with various bands in 2018 and dedicated himself to composing ambient music in his small home studio, focusing on the diverse traditions of ambient, new age, spiritual jazz, Kosmiche, and minimalist music. His ideas became fully realised with the inclusion of additional players, pairing his repetitive, droning synthesiser movements with spur-of-the-moment improvisation to transform the material into something much more lush and unpredictable.
One summer morning, Ruth was held up at gunpoint and carjacked by two people outside of his home. His music allowed him to work through this personal struggle, infusing his 2019 debut album, ‘Calming Signals’, with striking layers of angst and emotion. ‘Where There’s Life’ followed in 2021, a collection of meditative pieces written in the early months of the pandemic manifesting the collective sense of uncertainty and solitude of the time.
This piece represents a really nice moment in my life from 2022. I had just returned to the US from a six-week European tour playing solo and was touring in the states for weeks prior to that. I hadn't been home or in my studio in a few months and had a lot to process emotionally and creatively. I had known about the longfrom prompt prior to leaving so I was eagerly anticipating working on it when I returned. For about a week I would spend hours every day recording 30 to 60 minutes of music, letting it flow out of me in a very natural state. Some of the pieces morphed into new ideas for my next record, others were drawn out ambient drones. This particular set of sequences that dictates much of the piece felt unique and inspired. As I crafted some movement in and out of it, I was fortunate to work with a handful of regular collaborators. Spencer Cullum played pedal steel through reverse delays. Caleb Hickman improvised a lot of tenor saxophone over the whole thing while creating modulated sax drones through pedals that are intermittent through much of the music. James Green played flugelhorn over the back half while much of the twenty-or-so minutes were weaved together with various synths, loops, and noise. I wanted to pull from a lot of influences and veer away from a fully ambient set. Like much of my work I wanted to build tension and release, combining tranquility alongside sonic chaos.
I am listening to music throughout most of my waking (and much of my sleeping) hours. Throughout most of my life though, I have always valued sitting with music in a concentrated setting – be it through headphones or a nice set of speakers. The world has become so fast paced and distracting that I think now more than ever is the era to set aside and immerse yourself in extended listening. Whether or not music is challenging doesn't really matter to me – that all depends on my state of mind. I just think as an artist and listener it is extremely important to set time aside and just listen to music.