Rich Ruth

The title of Rich Ruth’s latest album is a reminder of constancy — a mantra that’s meant to roll away the rumple, because no mater what life throws at you, no matter how far or near home, somethings remain forever true. Considering that Ruth’s last album came from a place of deep anxiety, grief, and trauma, it’s nice to see this one feeling more like a conduit of consciousness than a method of coming to terms. Though, at its heart, there may be more tempest and tension on Water Still Flows than ever before. Ruth reaches back to a fondness for metal and the pallor of doom that inhabits corners of the genre. Through a bedrock of drone and a proclivity for blistering riffs, the album gives the glow of his spiritual jazz a dark underbelly.

The album’s strengths lie in Ruth’s embrace of opposing aural forces and collaboration, the two principles working in concert to strengthen the album. Where the guitars and synths skew dark and desperate, there is lightness and hope threaded through several collaborations with Mikaela Davis’ harp and Spencer Cullum’s pedal steel. Almost as constant as Ruth’s own riffs is the sax work of Sam Que. He adds flashes of tension, bleats of brushfire and blood that tear at the tracks. Similarly, the violin of Patrick M’Gonigle slashes at the record, gnashing at the listener with tones made of teeth. There is beauty and there is brutality in Water Still Flows, but what makes the LP an essential document is that one keeps the other at bay. There is constancy in everything, and, just as importantly, balance.

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