Lake Ruth make music that is going to draw a lot of comparisons to that of Broadcast and Stereolab. A few years ago, such a comparison would have been a lazy way for music writers to describe anything that was a bit retro and a bit trippy.
And yet, to say that Lake Ruth, on their new album Actual Entity, out now on The Great Pop Supplement, sound like early Broadcast is to say that the band makes music that is precise in its grasp of past pop styles and that vocalist Allison Brice recalls in her delivery the late, great Trish Keenan of that band in her ability to get these very lovely bits of chamber pop across.
Lake Ruth also features Matt Schulz and Hewson Chen from The New Lines and, yes, there are some similarities between that band's tunes and those here on Actual Entity. Like the cuts from The New Lines, those here owe big debts to both the sort of baroque pop one could find in the Top 40 some decades ago, as well as the indie of fairly recent acts who looked to the past for direction. Opener "The Greenfield Industrialist" percolates like both Broadcast and mid-period Stereolab, all languid rhythmic patches stretched out under Allison's coos and the tinkling keyboard lines. "The Only One Who Knows" edges in the direction of the sort of rockiness that punctuated so many Komeda cuts on that Swedish group's early releases. Lake Ruth here have hit on an ability to sound utterly live on these tracks and for a band that makes music like this, full of so many nods to past genre pioneers, that's an enormous accomplishment.
Now, sure, Lake Ruth craft soundscapes that are positively redolent with echoes of stuff like the best sides of The Left Banke or The Free Design but, in fairness, the three-piece do manage to imbue every cut here -- the pulsing "Helium" or the ascending "Dr. Snow And The Broad Street Pump", for example -- with enough flashes of modernism that this stuff never once feels as retro as, say, something like "The Book Lovers" from Broadcast which sounded remarkably like a remake of an Elephant's Memory song. "Cabin Fever" unwinds with a gentleness that made me think of old Saint Etienne singles, while the superb "A Victimless Crime" showcases some subtly fierce bass and drum fills from Chen and Schulz.
There's a Shirley Collins-inspired romp ("One Night As I Lay On My Bed") and what is the best approximation of Dots And Loops (1997)-era Stereolab as I've ever heard ("The Timekeeper's Lament"). Nearly-epic closer "Yet Still Tomorrow Comes" underpins the familiar elements of this group's chamber pop with another set of expert bass and drum runs from Chen and Schulz.
At times, the tune-age on Absolute Entity recalls the obvious touchstones of an earlier generation's Sixties-inflected indie pop, whether we're talking the trippy bits from an old Stereolab gem re-imagined here or a set of riffs that chime like something from The Clientele in a new setting. Still, for all that, and for all the ways this trio have absorbed so many great influences and internalized the things that made them great in the first place, the band members have managed to make this project more than just a retro exercise. There's a lot of heart and soul on Absolute Entity, and for all the vocalizing and precision in the chamber pop here, these performers sound like they are enjoying the whole endeavor immensely. As a band, Lake Ruth mesh as players perfectly and a listener could be forgiven for thinking that Chen and Schulz should stick with this band a bit before heading back to The New Lines. And, more importantly, the album sounds great and it almost feels like you are hearing this beautiful set of tunes unfold live. Maybe kudos should also go to the mix by Graham Walsh 'cause this just sounds wonderful.
Absolute Entity by Lake Ruth is out now via The Great Pop Supplement for the vinyl, or the Bandcamp link below for the download.
Follow Lake Ruth via the band's official Facebook page.