ruru - SLEEP
Here's the sound of the near-future zeitgeist: a year-and-a-half removed from Chance the Rapper's Coloring Book and five years deep into Mac Demarco's pop-cultural ascent, the time is just about ripe for us to appreciate a re-imagining of jazzy R'n'B this solidly inventive, sophisticated, and fun.
Following up her debut Sounds of the Mundane EP, which reveled in the warmth of Northwestern twee-folk acts like Lois and The Softies, Filipino singer-songwriter ruru drapes her once-sparse arrangements in a musty thrift-store jacket. There's a whiff of jazz-inflected nostalgia in SLEEP's sherpa lining, but what's it nostalgic for? The taut grooves and woozy twang of Al Green's more downbeat cuts? The homey folk that phases into the background as night falls on your Animal Crossing town? Hall and Oates?
Maybe nostalgia's not even the right word for it: the term entails a sadness and longing for something unrecoverable that I and my fellow post-Millennials aren't used to: we can conjure pictures of an old Happy Meal Toy or an episode of a favorite TV show at a moment's notice, no matter when it may have been released. The historical place of a pop-cultural artifact dissolves into the pool of our close ancestors' existence, leading us to create artistic works that can cull influence from twenty or thirty years of creativity. To us, that amount of time doesn't even seem that long. If it's documented, we can access it.
So SLEEP emerges from that sense of ambiguity. It caulks the little crannies that exist between decades, like the earthy color pallets of the late seventies to early eighties and the Reagan era's new-wavey spillage into George H.W. Bush's presidency. ruru takes their most interesting aesthetic elements, slips them into a glass slide, and then places them beneath the lo-fi lens of a twee-pop microscope. Each of the record's seven tracks is a cute little prokaryote, flagellating to its own funky rhythm.
If SLEEP were a sandwich, its bread would be the best part. Opener "when you're away" and closer "lil lonely" are slices of that expensive sprouted-wheat bread from the supermarket: Tempurpedic-soft, texturally-engaging, and maybe a little sweet/beery from sitting on the kitchen counter for too long. The former is the record's lowest-fi affair, spreading gummy keyboard chords on a cracker-thin drum loop. ruru sets up a lyrical diorama of an overcast day: gloomy cottonball clouds hang from thread tendrils above suburban milk cartons. "I'm a pathetic eclectic," she sings, sounding vaguely similar to Crying's Elaiza Santos. "Tell me what you're up to today." The latter's a jazz-pop dream, rattling off wah-pedaled Rhodes piano melodies that could fit nicely into a Father beat while leaving space for ruru to imagine a "Teletubby October", doused in reverb.
In between the slices, the quick cut "seventeen" stands out, sliding nimble maj7 chords into a jaunty rhythm like a Belle and Sebastian record played too fast. "sepanx" is also worth a listen, if not just for its fantastically spaced-out guitar noodling.
Smashing just about every sonic concept that's cool (or is about to be cool) into one digestible record, ruru's SLEEP is the sound of the moment but looks beyond it too. It's definitely a year-end list contender for me, and I doubt it's the last project I'll hear from her. Bump this record before ruru's impending cult following convinces you to do so.