Music » CD Reviews

Rebecca Gates

Ruby Series (Badman Recording)

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In 1997, Rebecca Gates became the last Spinane, as the departure of longtime musical partner Scott Plouf left her to craft the masterful Arches and Aisles alone. Arches and Aisles would itself become the Spinanes' epitaph, followed only by The Imp Years, a collection of B-sides and rarities from the defunct entity. After Gates's move to Chicago and the dissolution of the band, she entered a period of musical reflection and became increasingly involved with the underground scene in the Windy City. All of these factors figure heavily in Gates's first post-Spinanes release, the atmospheric and gorgeous Ruby Series.

Weighing in at a slight seven tracks and just over 30 minutes, Ruby Series is as ephemeral in its physical size as it is in its sonic presentation. Upon first listen, the album seems to skate over the senses without leaving a trace of its passage. Subsequent spins, best undertaken with headphones for a more personal involvement, reveal an album of incredible subtlety and infinite delicacy. Using members of the Chicago scene, including John McIntyre (Tortoise), Noel Kupersmith (Brokeback, the Chicago Underground Quartet), and Mikael Jorgensen (Movere Workshop), Gates has created a quietly cinematic album. Her songs move effortlessly from one to the next, a soundscape that suggests a smoky jazz club and a darkened bedroom simultaneously. Ruby Series is sensual, late-night music, and Gates throws in dashes of Tracey Thorn, Joni Mitchell, and Julie Doiron, creating an environment where joy and melancholy exist on the same ambient plane, without the roller coaster of emotional spikes. With Ruby Series, Gates attempts to distance herself from the brittle and effective alternative rock that she created with the Spinanes. It's also her amazing evolution into a new musical form, an evocative and languid style that not only recognizes her potent past, but also embraces her future.

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