Freak Scene #51: Aran Ruth Q+A, Vincent Over the Sink and Burning Star Core

February 02, 2010

In this week’s Freak Scene, Jamie Johns interviews Detroit weird dresser Aran Ruth, breaks down Burning Star Core's latest CD and pines for Australian noise. Check her prerogative after the jump.

Not much could possibly top the three records I wrote about last time, especially Puerto Rico Flowers and Native Cats, both of which are still dominating my record player and head space and probably will be doing so until 2011. However, Freak Scene can not languish in the existence of a few great records and it must keep going. First up is an interview with Detroit songstress Aran Ruth, whose Silver Wings 7-inch I wrote about back in November. After that, I dissect in my imprecise and unscientific way a new live album by Burning Star Core and a tape by Vincent Over the Sink.

Aran Ruth

Most days, folk is about as far from being my thing as polka  but something about Aran Ruth's Silver Wings 7" grabbed me. As the lady herself points out below, the record is a test in combining delicate folk sensibilities with spacey drone synths which makes it, as hackneyed as this may sound, both other worldly but evocative. While it works well for the -3 degrees of my room right now, I foresee this record getting more plays as the sun sets later and later in the day. As I mentioned in my original write up, I admire the sense of honesty that comes through in the songs. When listening to Aran Ruth, there is a feeling that the woman you hear on record is pretty close to the real person. Plus, I must admit that I was completely won over by the following line in my brief interview with her: I mean, why not dress up? That's a spirit I can stand by for the ages.

How did Aran Ruth start? What were some of your inspirations when you began writing and have they changed over the course of writing/recording/performing?
They’re always changing and growing. Everything is a constant work-in-progress. From the beginning I’ve really been influenced by folk singers/guitar players like Bert Jansch andJohn Martyn, along with synth stuff like Heldon, people like Franco Battiato and bands such as Hawkwind and Pink Floyd.  Bernard Sjazner’s great synth album Zed: Visions of Dune is a definite influence (and based on Frank Herbert’s Dune series—amazing). In addition, my songs have always been influenced by books I’ve read. Though essentially I am a folk singer, I have to say that in a very loose sense because what I do incorporates so many other elements.

Your hometown, Detroit, is typically stereotyped as a hollowed out, desolate, destitute etc. city. Has the city been an influence on you and your music?
It’s not an inaccurate stereotype by any means. However, there’s a really solid creative community here that’s made an extremely vibrant and vital place inside a burnt-out shell.

Could you tell me a bit more about the songs on the Silver Wings 7-inch? There is a very specific vibe on there.
I did have a very specific idea for that single—I’m interested in the textural contrast between acoustic guitar and heavy, analog synth. It’s a contrast between a more mellow folk style and a weighty electronic drone and sometimes noise sound. Basically, the Silver Wings single is my first attempt to make and re/combine the sounds that I wanted to hear together.

Could you tell me a little bit more about your onstage style and dress? As I was going through photos of you, I noticed you like to wear a mask onstage - any particular reason?
What I wear onstage really just depends on how I’m feeling that day, what I come up with. I am a firm believer in stage attire and presentation—I like a strong visual component in a show. I mean, why not dress up? Performance.

Although you play psych-tinged folk, I noticed that you end up sharing bills with lots of noise artists. How did you end up getting grouped in with these artists and do you feel any special connections to noise and its aesthetic?
I mainly end up playing shows with people that I know.  I do also feel that a noise/weird gig better suits my music than say, a straight-up rock show.  I also incorporate some noise elements, though mostly those of the drone synth persuasion, and there’s probably more of that now than when I recorded the first 7-inch.

So, yeah, when people go to a rock show, even if they love your songs, they still came for a rock show. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good rock show, but I’d much rather share a bill with a noise, weird folk or drone type band—definitely—it’s about receptivity.

What does the near future hold for Aran Ruth? New releases, touring?
I actually have a new 7-inch due out in a couple weeks. It’s a self-release split single with my friend Scott Michalski-an awesome folk singer. We (myself and Danny Bing, my synth player) are also working on some songs for a tape release on Sloow Tapes—so that should be out in the spring. Other than that, I’m working on recording a full-length album. I definitely hope to play some out of town gigs this spring and summer.

Vincent Over the Sink

This week at drinks, I referred to Australia as the promised land. Granted, some of this was from the alcohol I was consuming as if it was my job but still, there are more than handful of excellent bands from Australia. One of those bands is Naked on the Vague and they are excellent in every way imaginable. Thus when I saw the new Vincent Over the Sink tape sitting in the glass case at Academy with a large post-it proclaiming that it was a Naked On the Vague side project, I knew it would be good. And, surprise, it is pretty good! However, it is hard for me to distinguish Vincent Over the Sink from Naked on the Vague or stop myself from comparing the two. The tape I got, Bible Bashers, taps into the bleakness of Naked on the Vague but slows the whole thing down.  Much of the record consists of bare bones guitar and drums, often off-beat and accentuated by the odd horn or vocal. At times dirge-esque but that's not a bad thing and it is on the whole quite good. I must admit that I did really miss Lucy's vocals while listening to the tape though. Available from Goaty Tapes HERE.

Burning Star Core

Noise is not easy to write about and C. Spencer Yeh's Burning Star Core has released many records. With noise all I can typically write about is the context and the way a record makes me feel, so I will start this by saying that C. Spencer Yeh is one of my favorite noise performers and he may or may not have gotten a haircut based on the melon cat macro. He seems like a cool guy and he has a wide variety of dress shirts. I can't really think of a negative thing to say about Burning Star Core or its recorded output, the latest of which is Papercuts Theater, a collage of sixty six live recordings from 1997 to 2008. Mid-2000s noiseheads like Trevor Tremaine, Mike Connelly, Lambsbread, and many others are all featured players. Surprisingly, the record does not feel cobbled together or rushed, which could have been the result of collecting so many live clips. It is well paced and fairly seamless. There are natural ebbs and flows to keep you engaged in what is happening, which is necessary when there are only four tracks here that add up to over an hour of material. I also find this method of preservation pretty interesting. Performance is arguably the most important part of noise and Yeh has created a unique performance from over ten years of BSC live work that one can experience again and again. It is meant to be experienced as a live album but it doesn't entirely work that way. If you like Burning Star Core, you'll like this and if you haven't really experienced Burning Star Core but want to, you will probably still like this. My one complaint was that I wasn't listening to it on vinyl but there is thankfully a vinyl version that will be available. You can grip Papercuts Theater from No Quarter records after March 9.


Jamie Johns

4304 Lerner Hall

2920 Broadway

New York, NY 10027


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Freak Scene
Posted: February 02, 2010
Freak Scene #51: Aran Ruth Q+A, Vincent Over the Sink and Burning Star Core