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Review: Bing & Ruth’s No Home of the Mind Wrings Joy and Heartbreak Out of the Piano

For David Moore, the piano was always most important. As a student at the New School’s contemporary music department, Moore spun the measured minimalism of his solo piano pieces into grander ensemble works as his project, Bing & Ruth, slowly spread in scope. Influenced by composers like Thomas Newman and Sergei Prokofiev, the act wove Moore’s meditative piano lines into seismic spectacles of ambient maximalism, swinging between awe-striking resplendence and a softer, filmic sensitivity that delighted in near-silent echoes.

As the project continued, the group moved from an eleven-person ensemble to a tighter seven-person unit. On their latest, No Home of the Mind, the group is further reduced to five. Composed on seventeen pianos across North America and Europe and recorded in a church in upstate New York, the pieces work to leverage the bright hues and tinny contrast of each instrument into absorbing soundscapes. Leaning in on the weighty action of each piano key or the rolling motion of the sustain pedal, the tracks embrace the affective mechanics of each instrument, turning the familiar ticks of the home piano into new “Eureka!” moments from track to track.

“As Much as Possible” finds Moore toiling with parallel chords, teasing out piano lines with a careful forward motion; others like “Chonchos” offer more of past efforts, pulling back on intricate arrangements to reveal barren instrumental expertise in its final moment. Close to its midpoint, “Is Drop” is daubed with droning strings, as the piano pushes through chordal comfort toward triumphant resolution; “Flat Line/Peak Color” ascends to spectral heights through heavy, hammered piano lines.

But as it falls for the last time, “What Ash It Flow Up” introduces something new. A few chords in, the track flutters with a gentle pull of glissando, hinting at resolution while preparing for flight. In these large, full-bodied moments, the music—against a history of sluggish ambient indolence—somehow still breathes. Unlike even Eno’s finest moments with Robert Fripp or Harold Budd, Bing & Ruth wring every ounce of affect from the music, grasping at the towering sublime of a Glenn Branca symphony only to retreat back to the softest, most fragile threshold of perceptibility.

The effect is stunning. The ensemble is building bold new universes, as charged with joy and heartbreak as they are wholly blank—true vehicles of operative potential, latent with electric feeling. Moore’s use of the piano hits with a gravity long lost in so-called “classical” music, more indebted to the cinema than he’s ever given credit for. A conduit for sound at its most expressive potential, No Home of the Mind squeezes all it can from the five-person form into something warm and full and unprecedented.

Tags: Bing & Ruth
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