Gryphon Rue • A Spirit Appears to a Pair of Lovers
Alexander Graham Bell kisses Mabel Hubbard Gardiner Bell through a tetrahedral kite in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, 1903.
New York artist and composer Gryphon Rue likens his latest album to a viewfinder: “layers come into view, are obscured, and reemerge.” Begun in late 2020 as a series of intuitive patterns for multi-tracked Farfisa organ, harmonium, and modular synth, he later wove in field recordings from Puebla, Mexico and rolling thunder (“and a truly magical coyote visitation”) captured in Abiquiu, New Mexico. The result is a beguiling suite of elusive instrumentals combining electronic instrumentation with the natural world. Rue cites a fascination with the mimetic potential of electronic sounds – their ability to suggest biological actions or molecular events, from insects building mounds to nervous system synapses firing. Above all, the music was made “with people’s pleasure in mind.”
A Spirit Appears To A Pair Of Lovers unspools a saga of transformations via modal voyaging, devotional drone, mantric percussion, percolating circuitry, and amniotic ambience, shaded in a nuanced haze of threshold consciousness. Rue’s vision of “keeping the human hand in electronic music” remains constant throughout, a biofeedback between chaos and control, dream states and design. It’s a music both versatile and visual (all 10 tracks are accompanied by original videos by different artists), cerebral but celestial, born of and in thrall to our garden of earthly delights.
Not Not Fun Records 2022
Mastered by Joe Lambert. Mixed by Gryphon Rue and Nic Principe at People Teeth. Artwork by Nathlie Provosty. Design by Siiri Tännler.
Gryphon Rue • Merche Blasco – North Of The Future
Music for constructing a new localized reality, North Of The Future is a document of sonic purging by Gryphon Rue and Merche Blasco, recorded under conditions of straitjacketed stasis and thick idle air. Seeded in a deep yearning to sound together and disrupt the external circumstances, the collection charts non-idiomatic improvisations bound to deformations of time and place.
The shimmering Super Tender introduces us to North Of The Future’s entrancing sound worlds, equal parts elegy, experiment, and sonic prism capturing 2020’s wake. North Of The Future is a homebound duet between Rue and Blasco with instrumental interlocutors. The scarcely governable voice of Blasco’s EMS Synthi AKS (“Cintia”) and her singing saw entangle signals with Rue’s singing saw, harmonium, and custom modular synths (“Fritz”). A rare model from 1972, Cintia’s frayed circuitry gives the synth a special character – she interjects, digresses, changes the conversation. Ffffffffffff. Zeeeeerrrrt. Pft Pfa Pfta. At times in the music Cintia’s temperament is directly invoked: the comedic squeals which burst forth from the droning opening chords of Cintia On Fritz were elicited by rolling an orange up and down Cintia’s conductive keyboard. These human-like sounds are reinforced by the voices of the saws calling across the album.
Rue and Blasco spent late July, August, and early September 2020 recording before Blasco absconded on a research fellowship to Berlin. The artists continued composing the material and editing remotely in a sculpting process. Prior to bidding each other farewell, the duo met under the Cleft Ridge archway in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. Brandishing their saws, they recorded 40.65°N -73.96°W in the early morning, mimicking one another and passersby under the resonating plates of the arch, the oldest of its kind in the country. During the winter, Rue collaged the album’s cover in a visual translation of the colorful sonic structures and feeling of North Of The Future.
Astral Editions 2021
Recorded in Crown Heights & Cleft Ridge Span, Prospect Park, summer 2020. Mixed by Gryphon Rue & Nicholas Principe at People Teeth Mastered by Mikey Young. Cover art by Gryphon Rue.
Foliage of Caves
Foliage of Caves, Rue’s debut album for Soap Library, traces a kaleidoscopic yet unassuming trip through electro-acoustic textures created by bowed hand saws.
What is an instrument but a tool for a certain task? By modifying the task of the saw, we redefine its purpose, thereby entering a world of opposites: if the saw’s use is separation, here it is one of connecting disparate sounds. If the saw’s value is measured by its ability to make a finished product, here it is measured by its ability to guide the listener through open-ended compositions. If the saw’s aura is that of cold, metallic serrations, here it is warm and rounded.
These reversals aren’t just process-based parlor tricks, but describe a modern struggle of technological subversion at the hands of enterprising artists. Futurist John Naisbitt offers the term “high touch” to describe human subversion of techno-logic: “embracing technology that preserves our humanness and rejecting technology that intrudes upon it.” We are also forced to concede that “tech” is a continual process of our application and creative mis-use of commodified inventions. The saw is a physical instrument, immediate and pure. An ordinary tool, in Rue’s hands it produces almost electronic sounds. In service to the ordinary and the enigma which dwells within it, through the inducement of meditative states with gently fluctuating interference patterns, Foliage of Caves traces a zone of concentrated intricacy; offering a pleasurable antidote to the suspended abstraction that comes with increasing digitization.
As a member of the light and sound duo Rue Bainbridge, the merging of Rue’s saw and electronics puts the ethos of “high touch” into practice. In Foliage of Caves, this strategy drives a great range of meticulously crafted and, at times, aleatoric sounds.
Last summer Rue visited Luray Caverns in Virginia. As he puts it, “ancient calcium deposits hung like icicles at a fish market. I was mesmerized by pools of water reflecting stalactites, 200 feet underground in a mirror image, like standing inside crocodile jaws. The pools were crystal clear. Every so often, drips from the growing stalactites disturbed the water and shattered the illusion.”
As digital-industrial products collect around us like a blinking snowbank, the animate warmth that imbues Foliage of Caves suggests that a solution to life’s problems isn’t promethean technological conquest, but a return to our fleshy bodies and faculties of attention, in which a happenstance ray of light across one’s face in the morning has the power to supersede the most rigorously conceived and executed device. Reflection is a renewable resource — which, in 2020, is exactly the kind of foresight we need. ~ Soap Library
Featuring Will Epstein (sax), Tristan Krasten-Krause (upright bass), Eliot Krimsky (synth), Anna Roberts-Gevalt (viola), and Billy Aukstik (trumpet). Recorded 2017-2019 in various apartments in New York, Look to Listen (Brooklyn), and Goldsmiths Music Studios (London). Cover Art by Joost Elffers. CAT#: SL010. https://www.soaplibrary.net
Gryphon Rue • Merche Blasco – Resounding: North Of The Future
One year after the release of Gryphon Rue and Merche Blasco’s North of The Future, Tigersushi presents Resounding: North of The Future, transmutations of the album by a dynamic group of sound artists summoned by Gryphon and Merche, queering the “remix” and replacing it with a more radical entity.
In 2020’s New York summer, Gryphon Rue and Merche Blasco gathered for sonic purges. Seeded in a deep yearning to disrupt the idle thick air of quarantine, these purges became an emotional conduit. The music charts non-idiomatic improvisations bound to deformations of time and place. Drawn and refined from these sessions, North Of The Future is an accurate and sublime summation of a profoundly mournful year – a blissful and at times frightening music. Merche Blasco’s scarcely governable EMS Synthi AKS (“Cintia”) tangles signals with Gryphon Rue’s custom synth (“Fritz”), threaded with siren-calls of the duo’s bowed saws and harmonium.
Resounding: North of The Future was sparked by a remark by the writer and curator Bob Nickas, who claimed he could hear “space station disco” in the afterglow of the music. From this departure point, Gryphon and Merche invited electronic and media artists to channel the tracks with their distinct voices. The result is a wild assemblage, drifting in languorous ambiences that haunt and soothe, nourish and dissolve into, out of, and beyond crescendo.
Tigersushi Records 2022
Mixed by Gryphon Rue and Nic Principe at People Teeth. Artwork by Gryphon Rue.
Vertical Foliage – Love is a Grasshopper Nearby
“Vertical Foliage is a collaboration between composers Heloise Tunstall-Behrens and Gryphon Rue that sits just on the right side of a woo woo refraction from the cosmic prism. Recorded in the strangely warm resonance of an abandoned police facility in Mile End, the album might be an attempt at channelling pre-modern vocal and rhythmic exertions, especially on the title track and the excellently-named ‘Translucent Cromlech’. ‘Pylon Shadow Stenness’ has the sort of esoteric rattling Liars summoned on They Were Wrong So We Drowned’s interlude tracks, while ‘Ancestral Realm’ and ‘Rutilant’ are satisfying arcane drone. Throughout, Love Is A Grasshopper Nearby glistens with hallucinatory, summer atmospheres, a space in which to dream”
– Luke Turner, The Quietus
Vertical Foliage’s debut “Love is a Grasshopper Nearby” explores the colours and haptics of interference patterns and spectrality created by the voices of Heloise Tunstall-Behrens, Gryphon Rue, and a bowed hand saw. Each performance is bound by specific frequency clusters, which stamp each movement with chord identities. Within the constraints of these intervals, Vertical Foliage nimbly and sensually activate the interplay of the evolving textural and harmonic interactions. Valentina Magaletti (Tomaga, Vanishing Twin, Fanfarlo) responds to the haunting voices with percussive impulses by turns virtuosic and creaturely, channeling shimmers of Jaki Liebezeit, Ikue Mori, Milford Graves.
Love is a Grasshopper Nearby was recorded with Tunstall-Behrens and Rue gazing at each other, their bodies relaxed and motionless, the saw acting as a kind of tamboura or igil. Their voices blend in the evocation of a third body or spirit through sustained sound. Prior to performance, attunement exercises involve visualizing and sounding the corresponding colors, tones, and syllables of their bodies’ chakras.
The pair were drawn to the acoustics of a former police academy in Mile End, London, a “sanctuary space” as the building awaits its uncertain fate. Their voices reverberated with the vaulted ceiling of the gymnasium, further enhanced with an old-fashioned 300 kilo plate reverb.