There is a genuine, haunting beauty that comes with Minnesota-based sound artist Marsha Fisher. With the release of New Ruins also comes a compelling take on repurposing and interpolating older music.
Sampling isn’t anything new in music – it’s a tenet for producers both within the genres of hip-hop all the way through to low-key Soundcloud producers – DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing….. being a great example of taking something and subverting it into something wholly new.
With New Ruins, Fisher has ticked boxes for modern day audiophiles; the use of samples sourced from old cassette tapes. Those samples in question have come from the plundering of Midwestern thrift stores and old Christian music.
At points, there’s moments from a jazz fusion record and others from instrumental soft rock albums. It’s what Fisher has accomplished with these relics with the use of a modular synthesizer and processed tape loops that makes the record all the more bewitching.
New Ruins also lacks the “post-irony” that some may find within harsh noise or vaporwave – contextualized, as their label puts it, as something considered “inspired art.”
Fisher remarks that the use of the more religious recordings on the record are akin to “tapes for people that like new age but not Buddhism” and there is that new age element throughout.
However those elements are manifested as an incredibly unnerving and somewhat unsettling series of compositions. It’s meant to be relaxing, but the filth from the tape loops keep you just on edge as to not immerse yourself too much.
The title track itself proffers Fisher’s methodology from the outside; those slightly muted, scuffed tape loops with a bit-crushed layer emerging in and out is a declaration of intent.
Everything on paper should in essence create a warmhearted composition but instead, New Ruins had created a malevolent undertow throughout. It is so easy to become lost throughout the release with how it seamlessly merges together.
Not in the sense that everything sounds exactly the same, but how the work ebbs and flows, pulling you out to sea and then dragging you beneath the luscious, modular square-waves.
Again – it’s that malevolent undertow, and by the time you’ve finished the 17:10 journey, “Heavy Clouds Over Shoemaker Marsh” you yearn for more. Which in my case was hitting repeat all on my music player.
Akin to the Japanese Onkyokei movement, converse to the harsh noise movement but equally as discomfiting, New Ruins isn’t by any means an uncomfortable listen; far from it.
But the beauty of Fisher’s work stems from the landscape they have cultivated within the four tracks and its near flawless mastery of understated menace.
It’s near perfect.