It is that time of the year, when the sun beams with underestimated intensity and humidity creeps upward, smearing the world with a thin veneer of moisture. Everything keeps ratcheting up, it gets harder to think, harder to focus, harder to breathe almost. Cognitive space is required, something to give your brain enough room to remain active and alert but not so much as it gets overwhelmed in this delicate atmosphere. What you need is some sweet, laid back Vibey Synth Shit, or VSS. It’s an umbrella term. It encompasses a vast array of sub-genres and ideologies from film soundtracks, ambient, minimalism and IDM to Internet-fuelled genres like Vaporwave. Its core tenants include a commitment to synthesised electronic instruments, the eschewing of conventional song structures, and a devotion to creating a very particular atmosphere or mood.
This could be the dread-inducing work of John Carpenter’s soundtrack work, or the spaced-out lo-fi hums of Boards of Canada’s Music Has A Right To Children. All are valid and equally welcome under the umbrella. This inclusive term breeds the kind of music that allows the listener to become an audionaut of sorts, where they are encouraged to examine a single tone or idea in as much or as little detail as they want. When it’s made well, it is magical. Bing & Ruth, the Brooklyn minimalist quartet led by pianist Dave Moore, and their latest LP, Species, are a pitch-perfect example of Vibey Synth Shit at it’s very best.
It is tough to accurately pin down what is so compelling about Species because, on paper, there is not even much there. A collection of freeform ambient compositions played on a Farfisa organ, it’s the sort of album that can, depending on the environment, fall blissfully into the background or captivate utterly. ‘Live Forever’ is a 10-minute trip built upon a single looping, layering melody, but something hidden within it makes it one of the most compelling listens of the year.
‘The Pressure of This Water’ stuns with its arpeggiated synth runs, while ‘Blood Harmony’ and ‘Nearer’ are vast and beautiful in their simplicity. I Had No Dream’ radiates with its swirling melodic runs. On their own, these pieces are stellar but, when taken as a whole, they are exponentially improved. Each movement is distinct and rewarding, but when coalesced to a single object, they create a much richer experience that keeps expanding and unfolding under the album’s endless warming drone.
‘Body In A Room’ makes it evident that something glorious is opening in front of you, stretching out to the horizon and beyond. Hearing those first few notes flourish and grow is a gift in and of itself. Over the next 48 minutes, in an almost dreamlike manner, we explore a rolling sonic land. Passing from environment to environment, never fully aware of how we got there or where we’ll go next. Every single moment here is steadfast to the creation of the desired vibe. In this case, that mood is one of the calm lackadaisical days of peace, tranquility, and release from the summer’s most overbearing heat. Will Murphy