Rich Ruth

  • August 21, 2024 8:00 PM - 11:00 PM
  • The Bishop

    123 South Walnut Street
    Bloomington, Indiana 47408
Ticket Price $15.00 Buy Tickets


with Technicolor Band and Alex Swartzentruber

Rich Ruth, the recording project of Nashville multi-instrumentalist Michael Ruth, makes wholly immersive instrumental songs that thread the line between gleefully adventurous and calmingly meditative. His music starts in solitude with mesmerizing loops and drones anchoring the arrangements that are eventually colored in by an eclectic cast of collaborators. The resulting exploratory compositions, which combine spiritual jazz, synth-infused post-rock, and cosmic ambient, often beguile but they always soar with a palpable immediacy. His new album Water Still Flows is both his heaviest and his most cathartic. Across seven songs, the LP is both a document of an artist stretching the limits of his process and a testament to how songwriting can be a personally grounding force.


With his foray into ambient recordings starting with his 2019 LP Calming Signals and his acclaimed 2022 album I Survived, It’s Over, Ruth has firmly established himself alongside peers like William Tyler and Luke Schneider as one of Nashville’s foremost experimentalists. “There are so many amazing musicians in Nashville that I think a lot of people finally had time and energy to focus on doing things that were a little more outside the box,” says Ruth. “If I analyze it, it’s more that the Nashville music community I grew up with is getting older, settling down, and feeling quieter. The nature of people that are good at music is that they're probably drawn to weirder things.”


Water Still Flows came out of a period of transience for Ruth. “All of this was written when I was on tour all the time,” says Ruth. “Up until late November of last year, I was basically on the road for almost two years straight—mostly with SG Goodman and playing my own music as much as I could.” Unmoored from waking up in a different city every day, he’d spend what little free time he had on breaks crafting enveloping drones at his home studio. While these were skeletons of fleshed-out songs, they served more as therapeutic exercises to find his footing away from tour. “It was this weird space between feeling inherently restless and anxious from traveling all the time but also being grateful to have some space to work on new music,” he says.


As Ruth decompressed from his traveling, he found himself gravitating towards the heavy metal he loved growing up. “I wanted to take these elements of doom, stoner, drone-metal—the heavy music I've always loved—into what I'm already doing with jazz, ambient, and kraut rock,” he says. “When you compare spiritual jazz with metal, those two things aren't that different. It's a heavy, visceral riff with a lot of psychedelic qualities swirling around it.” Take the way “Crying In the Trees'' gradually builds to a thunderous, hysterical peak. In the track, pummeling guitars from Ruth counter Mikaela Davis’ plaintive harp playing. As the arrangement reaches its boiling point, a frenetic and relentless saxophone from Sam Que allows the track to hit something close to transcendence.


While Water Still Flows hits ferocious intensity, it’s still an inviting record. On the hypnotic lead single “No Muscle, No Memory,” Ruth encapsulates everything the record does well. There are kinetic atmospherics that meld electronic and organic textures seamlessly. Within songs, they can turn drastically from patient, ethereal beauty to a searing squall. “The Rich Ruth chapter of my creativity has always kind of straddled those two things,” says Ruth. “There's always this calming spirit to making the music. It's always felt like a pretty therapeutic zone but on the other side, my brain is filled with anxiety and just moving all the time, which inevitably creeps into it.” This blend is tangible on “Aspiring To The Sky,” where a mellow thrum of chimes quickly morphs into a spiritual blend of fiery horns and clanging percussion.


Recorded at Ruth’s home studio and mixed by Jake Davis (William Tyler, Skyway Man), Water Still Flows reflects his unwavering devotion to collaboration. Its seven tracks are peppered with marquee collaborators, which alongside the aforementioned Davis and Que, include pedal steel player Spencer Cullum, drummer Ruben Gingrich, violinist Patrick M’gonigle, saxophonist Jared Selner, and more. “Working with people who are just better musicians than me, or play drastically different instruments like harp and saxophone, opens up millions of new pathways of where the music can be taken,” says Ruth. “I’ll stitch a narrative out of these improvisational ideas but letting these players do whatever they want without parameters creates a much more unpredictable and interesting thing.”


To Ruth, Water Still Flows, which takes its title from a translation of a Li Bai poem called “A Farewell To Secretary Shuyun,” has become a sort of mantra. “It's a good reset phrase remembering the fluidity and consistency of life no matter your anxiety or how you get bogged down,” he says. “Sometimes I get in my head about my own creativity. Sometimes I have doubts or wonder if I’m going to lose these creative sparks as I get older. But they always come back and I always find inspiration with the people around me. Music is always gonna be there.”

Date & Time

Wed, Aug 21, 2024 8:00 PM - 11:00 PM

Venue Details

The Bishop

123 South Walnut Street
Bloomington, Indiana 47408 The Bishop
Spirit of 68 Promotions

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